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U.S. News Archive
September 01 - September 05, 1999





This page contains news for the period Wednesday, September 01, 1999 through Sunday, September 05, 1999.



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Friday, September 3, 1999

Assembly OKs domestic-partner bill

By Jim Sams
Capitol Bureau Chief
Stockton Record
September 3, 1999

SACRAMENTO -- The state Assembly on Thursday passed a bill that would make California the first state in the nation to recognize unmarried domestic partners, but Gov. Gray Davis prefers another version that would apply the status only to gay and elderly couples.

The Assembly voted 41-38 -- the thinnest majority possible -- to approve a bill by Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Los Angeles, to create the first-ever statewide domestic-partner registry and give unmarried couples some of the rights now enjoyed only by spouses. Every Assembly Republican and every Central Valley Democrat outside the Sacramento area, including Michael Machado of Linden, opposed the bill.

Davis prefers another version that would allow only same-sex couples and people 62 and older to register as domestic partners, spokesman Michael Bustamante said. Many elderly couples live together but don't marry because they don't want to lose pension benefits or reduce their Social Security payments, senior advocates say.

Bustamante said Davis sympathizes with seniors and has backed off his previous stand that only same-sex couples should be allowed to register as domestic partners. But he said the governor doesn't see any need for heterosexual couples who are not married to receive legal recognition.

"There's a process that covers those folks," Bustamante said. "It's called the institution of marriage."

Assemblywoman Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, said at the governor's request she is amending her own domestic-partner bill to cover only elderly and same-sex couples, effectively excluding heterosexual couples younger than 62. In addition to creating a registry, Migden's version would require health-insurance companies to offer coverage for domestic partners under the same terms and conditions as spouses. The bill is expected to go to a final vote by the Senate on Wednesday or Thursday.

The intent of both bills -- and two others that are pending in the Legislature -- is to give unmarried couples some of the legal considerations that married people take for granted. Since gay couples now receive no legal recognition and are prohibited from marrying by the state Constitution, they can be shut out of hospital emergency rooms and have no more right than a perfect stranger to act as conservators for disabled partners who can no longer make decisions for themselves. Elderly couples who choose not to marry for financial reasons find themselves in similar predicaments.

Opponents say either version of the domestic-partner bill threatens the strength of traditional marriage. Although many cities and counties and some states have extended domestic-partner benefits to government employees, no state has given legal recognition to the arrangement, according to the American Association for Single People.

Murray's bill would require the Secretary of State's Office to set up a domestic-partner registry, charging fees to couples to cover the estimated $130,000 annual cost. Domestic partners would have to give notice before terminating the relationship and could not enter into another domestic-partner arrangement until six months after termination.

Bustamante said he does not know if the governor will veto Murray's bill should it reach his desk before Migden's. The Senate has one more chance to amend the measure when it comes back next week for concurrence with minor amendments made in the Assembly.

Murray said Thursday the governor's office hasn't asked him to make any changes.

"I have no plans to amend my bill," he said. "The governor can decide what his policy directives are."

Thomas F. Coleman, coordinator of singles' rights for the American Association of Single People, said the domestic-partner policy proposed by Davis is a step in the right direction but doesn't go far enough. He said many single couples are philosophically opposed to marriage because of the aura of religious tradition but deserve secular legal recognition of their relationships.

Coleman said if the governor wants to include elderly people in the domestic-partnership registry, he should at least extend eligibility to disabled people as well. Coleman said disabled people who receive Social Security payments often do not marry because the union would reduce their benefits.

"This is a last-minute compromise, and they haven't thought out all the details because it's a  last-minute thing," Coleman said. "They are thinking larger than same-sex -- that's good -- but there are people they are not thinking about."


Wednesday, September 1, 1999

One couple - two houses

The Christian Science Monitor ran a story today about the growing number of husbands and wives who maintain separate residences. The United States Census Bureau has a name for this marital shifting: "Married, spouse absent." According to a l998 census figure, some 7 million spouses fall into this category, up by 790,000 from 1994.

After many years of marriage, some older couples choose separation to preserve assets, or because a spouse is unable to care for himself or herself and is under care in a rest home or hospital. Legally they are apart, but emotionally connected.

Dual careers keep couples apart geographically, or a spouse may be in long-term care. And many military families endure at least occasional separations. Men and women in prison may also be a factor.

The article is quite interesting. This phenomenon gives "marriage" a whole new meaning.

Single female seeks travel and romance -- with child

Today's issue of Salon Online has an article discussing a getaway hosted by Eastover Resort in Lenox, Mass., for single parents and their kids to bond with each other and nature.

"Eastover" is described by the writer as a picturesque thousand-acre estate with a rambling old Georgian mansion nestled against rolling hills and misty mountains. The week-long program offers five hours a day of free child care for kids 3 and up.

North Carolina crime victims no longer penalized for cohabitation

According to an Associated Press story that ran in several newspapers around the nation on September 1, 1999, the North Carolina Crime Victims Compensation Commission will pay families of 14 murder victims whose claims had been rejected because the victims - all unmarried - were living with a member of the opposite sex. North Carolina and several other states have criminal laws against unmarried cohabitation.

Among the beneficiaries was Diana Zambory of Newport, who was originally denied compensation after her 24-year-old daughter was killed by her live-in boyfriend.


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