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Domestic Partnership News Archive
October 07 - October 13, 2000




This page contains news for the period October 07, 2000 through October 13, 2000.





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October 11, 2000

Minnesota county rejects same-sex partner benefits

A story published today in the Star Tribune reports that the Hennepin County Board on Tuesday narrowly rejected a proposal to seek a change in state law to allow local governments to offer workers with gay or lesbian partners the same health-care benefits married workers can get for their spouses.

The County Board's unusually close 4-3 vote followed more than an hour of testimony from gay and lesbian county workers and others.

Both the city and county have approved domestic-partner benefits in the past, but a court ruling against the city's policy declared  that local governments have no such authority. The new efforts were spurred in part by Gov. Jesse Ventura's pledge last month   to seek a clarification of state law in the hope of providing such benefits to state workers.

The state Senate defeated a proposal to allow local governments to establish new dependent classes in 1997.

Commissioner Peter McLaughlin authored Hennepin County's latest resolution, citing "basic fairness" and the need to compete for qualified workers. "We are not trying to change the facts of our community," he said Tuesday. "We are trying to change the laws."

Added Commissioner Gail Dorfman, co-author of the resolution: "We spend a lot of time recognizing and celebrating diversity, but we are relegating some workers in this county to second-class status."

But Commissioner Penny Steele opposed the resolution. "Marriage is a social structure," she said. "It has been a social contract."

Earlier in the day, the Minneapolis City Council's Intergovernmental Relations Committee approved a resolution similar to the one rejected by the county. City Council Member Kathy Thurber, a cosponsor, said she intends to try to bring it up for a full council vote Friday, despite the county's rejection.

October 10, 2000

Partner benefits rejected by New Mexico training institure

A story published today in the Albuquerque Journal reports that unmarried domestic partners of faculty and staff at Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute won't get insurance coverage.

In a 5-2 vote, a state board decided last week against broadening coverage, despite encouragement from two board members to make it available. Karlene McDowell and Kathy Knoll told their male colleagues on the New Mexico Public Schools Insurance Authority that "the issue isn't going to go away" and the board likely would have to face it after a lawsuit was filed.

TVI, whose health insurance is provided through the insurance authority, had asked the board to review its coverage.

TVI is "faced with the potential of a legal challenge because our Equal Opportunity Statement prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation," President Michael Glennon wrote the insurance authority in August.

The University of New Mexico has offered health insurance since 1994 to same-sex or heterosexual domestic — or unmarried — partners. They are required to sign an affidavit attesting to a long-term relationship, said UNM Human Resources Director Susan Carkeek.

She said that of 17,000 people insured by UNM — about 7,000 employees and their dependents — only 217 are domestic partners.  Carkeek said she believed the policy was a good one, especially "in today's competitive workplace."

The city of Albuquerque also began offering domestic partner coverage in July, but the city didn't immediately have numbers on those enrolled since the policy was inaugurated.

Bill Robinson of the Segal Co., an insurance authority consultant, said he had consulted the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Web site for information about public sector employees offering domestic partner coverage.

A total of 90 state and local governments offer health benefits to partners.


October 7, 2000

Judge rejects suit over Philadelphia's employee benefits program for same-sex partners

A story published today in the Philadelphia News reports that a state judge judge has upheld the authority of Philadelphia to grant health and pension benefits to same-sex partners of city employees.

Judge Matthew D. Carrafiello issued a ruling Thursday, rejecting a lawsuit that had challenged three ordinances the city adopted in 1998 benefiting gay and lesbian couples and others who are unmarried but involved in long-term relationships.

The suit, filed by 10 citizens, argued that only the state could set rules governing marital and domestic relationships.

Carrafiello ruled that the privileges established in the city ordinances were not barred by state law.

William Devlin, president of the Urban Family Council and the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said yesterday that he would appeal Carrafiello's ruling to Commonwealth Court.

The hotly contested 1998 city ordinances permit health and pension benefits to be extended to same-sex partners of city employees. Those benefits previously were extended only to husbands, wives and children of city employees. The ordinances also allow people who are not married but are involved in long-term relationships to deed property to each other without paying the real-estate transfer tax. The tax waiver is routinely permitted in property transfers between husbands and wives and parents and children.

To qualify for any of those benefits, city employees - or anyone else - must sign a notarized statement attesting to a long-term relationship.

In turn, the city issues them a certificate enabling them to obtain benefits provided by the ordinances. The city Human Relations Commission oversees the certification process.

Lazar Kleit, the commission's acting executive director, said yesterday that 188 couples have been certified since the ordinances were adopted.

Kleit said he did not know how many of the couples included city employees, nor did he know the sexual orientation of any of the couples. Kleit said the Human Relations Commission does not ask those question.



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