This page contains news for the period February 07, 2001 through
February 13, 2001.
<< February 2001 >>
Friday, February 9, 2001
Court gives green light to partner
benefits at Wisconsin school district
A story published today in the Duluth News Tribune reports
that teachers can share their insurance policies with
domestic partners, a state appeals court ruled Thursday, rejecting protests by school
district residents who filed a lawsuit challenging the practice.
The 4th District Court of Appeals' decision affirmed a Dane County Circuit Court ruling
upholding a provision in the Madison School District's contract with Madison Teachers
Inc., the teachers union, that includes same-sex partners and unmarried partners in
Madison is the only school district in the state to provide such benefits, said John
Matthews, the union's executive director.
The plan took effect in June 1998 and 74 of the 4,100 district employees eligible for
benefits have signed up, district spokesman Ken Syke said.
The lawsuit, filed by school district residents Helen Pritchard, Mason Sproul and Steve
Tadevich, argued a state statute that authorizes taxpayer-funded medical insurance for
public employees, their spouses and dependent children cannot be expanded to include
The appeals court rejected the taxpayers' argument, saying nothing in state law prohibits
the district from providing the benefits.
Tadevich said they would appeal to the state Supreme Court.
The school district provides domestic-partner insurance to other union and nonunion
employees besides teachers, including aides, administrators and building services workers.
The city of Madison also offers employees a domestic-partner insurance plan.
Wednesday, February 7, 2001
More municipalities require
contractors to provide partner benefits
A story published in Planet Out reports that Tumwater,
Washington and San Mateo County, California
have followed San Francisco's lead in requiring companies which contract with the
municipality to extend spousal benefits to domestic partners.
Seattle, Washington and Los Angeles, California have similar
measures in place, while Broward County, Florida gives preference points to bidders who
extend health care benefits to domestic partners.
The Tumwater, Washington City Council on February 6 by a vote
of 5 - 2 approved a requirement that those city contractors offering health benefits to
their workers' spouses must do the same for their unmarried workers' domestic partners
(regardless of gender), the Associated Press reported. The new rule applies only to
contracts of at least $50,000. It was initiated by the Black Hills Alliance.
The San Mateo County, California Board of Supervisors on February 6 unanimously gave
preliminary approval to requiring county contractors to extend spousal insurance benefits
to their workers' state-registered domestic partners. Currently California's domestic
partner registry is open to all gay and lesbian couples but only to heterosexual couples
in which both members are at least 62 years old. Final approval for the addition to the
County's non-discrimination code is expected later this month, with the new requirement to
go into effect July 1. It will apply only to contracts of at least $5,000.
Colorado legislative committee passes bill
protecting surviving same-sex partners
A story published today in Planet Out reports that the
Colorado state Senate Judiciary Committee on February 5 with a 4 - 3 party line vote
approved a bill to give gay and lesbian partners standing to inherit from each other as
spouses do even if there is no will, and also to make medical decisions for each other
should one be too incapacitated to do so.
To qualify, the couple would have to file an affidavit
declaring themselves "committed partners."
SB 159 is state Senator Pat Pascoe's (D-Denver) third attempt
to enact such a law, but neither of the earlier editions won committee approval. Next the
measure will move to the Senate floor, where the Democrats' 18 to 17 edge over Republicans
gives it a chance of passage.
The Denver Post ran a story on February 6 reporting that
Senators Mark Hillman of Burlington, Ken Arnold of Westminster, and Jim Dyer of Littleton
-- voted no.
According to that story, the measure now goes to the full
Senate for debate, where it is expected to encounter strong opposition from conservatives
who last year helped the legislature pass a ban on same-sex marriages.
"Instead of changing the law simply to accommodate
same-sex partners, why not improve the law generally on private contracts, so everyone can
benefit?" said Hillman, in response to a witness who testified that wills are easily
contested in Colorado and thus not a strong protection for gay couples.
"This could have been done without making it a gay
rights issue," he said, adding that he is concerned the bill is a step toward
sanctioning gay marriage without actually passing a law.
The Planet Out story said that another bill filed by Senator Marilyn Musgrave (R-Fort
Morgan), SB 139, would declare that, "domestic relationships are against the strong
public policy of Colorado," would prohibit use of state funds to extend employee
benefits to gay and lesbian partners, and would ensure that private sector employers could
not be forced to extend such benefits.