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Domestic Partnership News Archive
February 07 - February 13, 2001




This page contains news for the period February 07, 2001 through February 13, 2001.





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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 medical benefits.

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 domestic partners.

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.



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