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Domestic Partnership News Archive
March 01 - March 06, 2001




This page contains news for the period March 01, 2001 through March 06, 2001.





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Tuesday, March 6, 2001

Berkeley and San Mateo County extending domestic partner benefits

The city that was first in the nation to include spousal benefits to the domestic partners of its own employees is moving towards becoming the fourth to require the same of its contractors. Returning to a plan first set in motion in 1999, the Berkeley, California City Council unanimously voted to instruct its staff to develop a plan modeled after San Francisco's Equal Benefits Ordinance.

It would require for-profit businesses with city contracts of at least $25,000 and non-profit organizations with contracts of at least $100,000 to extend the same benefits granted to employees' legally married spouses to unmarried employees' registered same-sex or different-sex domestic partners. A final vote is expected in April.

Teaching Assistants rally for new health-care benefits at Univ. Wisconsin

The Badger Herald of the University of Wisconsin reported that The Teaching Assistants Association rallied yesterday at Memorial Union for the extension of domestic health care benefits of teaching assistants at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The current healthcare policy only covers UW Project Assistants and Teaching Assistants and their married partners, excluding "non-traditional" relationships such as same-sex couples and those who choose to not be married.

The proposal urged UW to stop discriminating against TAs who choose not to be married, and adhere to its commitment of non-discrimination and diversity on campus.

The TAA stated TA partners should be entitled to all of the healthcare benefits extended to married TAs to ensure fairness.

The "Bargaining Kickoff" involved several UW TAs and members of UW's community, including state Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison.

Pocan emphasized the importance of domestic healthcare benefits.

"It's about equal pay for equal work," he said. "It's tremendous what the [TAs] are doing. We've been fighting this on the state level."

UW German TA and Memorial Union spokesperson Eric Jarosinski stressed the significance of equal healthcare benefits.

"Our members care about this issue [because] it affects people we know and we are watching," he said. "[It's a] main priority and we're willing to fight. We're at a point that we just don't want to accept excuses anymore."

A spokesperson of the university said they will work towards a fair and equitable TA contract as the negotiation continues through the spring. The TAA's proposal also pushed for better access to job related resources and fair wages. Since benefits can total up to 40 percent of an employee's pay, the TAs who are getting married partner benefits are getting paid more than those who are not. The current proposal requires the university to reimburse eligible employees the difference between family and single healthcare plans. This would cost the university less than $75,000.

The Wisconsin community seems to be in agreement with the TAA proposal for fair healthcare benefits. A state-wide survey by Chamberlain Research Consultants indicate that 76 percent favored equal treatment and rights for all people under the law. Only 15 percent were opposed.

When the same survey asked if same-sex partners should receive health insurance, 58 percent supported the idea, while 34 percent were opposed.

However, a slim majority were in support of creating domestic partnership, which is essentially marriage for those of the same-sex.

African court rejects immigration marriage rights for same-sex couples

A story published today by The Namibian (All Africa Global Media) reports that gay and lesbian couples do not have the same legal status in Namibia as heterosexual unions, at least for immigration purposes, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

Acting Judge of Appeal Pio Teek concurred with a judgement penned by Acting Appeal Judge Bryan O'Linn, with Chief Justice Johan Strydom dissenting, in setting aside a 1999 High Court judgement of then Acting Judge Harold Levy.

The two Acting Appeal Judges agreed that the Immigration Selection Board had to be ordered to again consider an application by German citizen Liz Frank to be issued a permanent residence permit.

However, they also dealt Frank a setback in her quest to have her long-term lesbian relationship with a Namibian citizen recognised as a factor that should count in her favour when her permanent residence application is considered.


Friday, March 2, 2001

Nevada bill would give hospital visitation rights to domestic partners

A story published today in the Las Vegas Sun reports that a bill known as the Nevada Family Fairness Act will soon be introduced into the state Legislature.  The measure would guarantee hospital visitation rights to unmarried couples and would create a registry where couples could sign up as committed partners.

Currently, family members of a hospitalized person can ban an unmarried partner from the room, even in cases where one partner is dying and a final visit would help during the grieving period.

Ron Lawrence, a licensed marriage and family therapist who runs the Community Counseling Center near Maryland Parkway and Sahara, says when families take advantage of that legal right, it is traumatic for the partner.

"The very first case that I had was the case of two gay men who had met in the Navy," he said. One died from AIDS after they had been together for years. His partner's family had kicked him out of the hospital and excluded him from the funeral arrangements.

After his partner's death, all he had from their time together was his partner's naval uniform, and he developed an elaborate ritual that involved cleaning and pressing the uniform. "His whole grief ritual centered on that uniform," Lawrence said.

Lawrence has worked with many other patients who have been thrown out of their partner's hospital room by security at the request of relatives.

The intention of the bill is to make sure that two people who are committed to each other will be guaranteed the right to see each other rather than allowing medical staff to make subjective decisions about a patient's relationships, she said.

The need for the bill also came out of inconsistent visitation policies at different hospitals throughout the

While local hospitals such as University Medical Center and Sunrise use language in visitation policies to allow relatives and significant others to visit, if only one or two visitors are allowed and the patient is in a coma, family members can exclude the patient's partner, and hospital staff can't do anything about it, according to hospital officials.


Thursday, March 1, 2001

California bill would create 'civil unions' for unmarried couples in committed relationships

A story published today by Reuters reports that a California state legislator on Thursday unveiled a new "civil union" bill designed to extend marriage-like protections to gay couples, reviving a notion which California voters rejected last year after a bitter political fight.

What the story does not say, and what other newspapers reporting on the bill have failed to mention, is that the new "civil union" status would be available to unmarried heterosexual couples too.

Assemblyman Paul Koretz, Democrat of West Hollywood, said his new "California Family Protection Act" was modeled on a civil union bill signed into law in Vermont last year, the broadest gay rights measure ever passed  in the United States.   The Vermont law, however, is limited to same-sex couples.

"This bill is about equality," Koretz said on Thursday. "Same-sex couples who choose to make a lifetime commitment to each other should not be discriminated against."

California last year joined a growing number of U.S. states which explicitly reject the concept of "gay marriage," with voters passing by 60 percent to 40 percent a law recognizing marriage as valid only between a man and a woman.

The new California bill would grant unmarried couples who become "civilly united" the right to share title on a house, file joint tax returns, sue for wrongful death and make decisions on behalf of their partner in the event of a medical emergency.

The measure would also allow such couples to apply for a license from their county clerk and have their union certified by a justice of the peace, a judge, or clergy member.


Southern Methodist University to offer same-sex partner benefits

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that Southern Methodist University next year will begin offering medical benefits and reduced tuition to same-sex partners of employees.

The Dallas-based school will become the second in Texas and one of a relatively few religious institutions nationwide to extend such benefits.

The university will join a growing number of private-sector companies offering same-sex benefits.

Morgan Olsen, SMU vice president for business and finance, said the benefits plan is a good business decision that will allow the university to remain competitive for top teaching talent.

``It was becoming clear that many employers nationally are offering this benefit,'' he told The Dallas Morning News in Thursday's editions. ``This is necessary to ensure SMU recruits and retains the best people.''

The Faculty Senate last month unanimously approved the recommendation by members of the University Benefits Council.

``Not only is this important for certain people, but it sends a message that this is a place that's inclusive,'' said Patricia Davis, Faculty Senate president.

Beginning Jan. 1, same-sex partners will be eligible for medical and dental insurance and reduced tuition, with details to be developed during the coming months, Olsen said.

SMU estimates that about 19 of its 1,900 employees will sign up for the benefits at an annual cost of $80,000 to $100,000.

About 150 of 3,300 higher education institutions nationwide have similar policies.

Portland, Maine proposed same-sex registry

A story published today by the Portland Press Herald reports that two city councilors want Maine's largest city to establish a registry for same-sex couples, and to officially redefine the city's definition of family to include people who register.

Councilors Peter O'Donnell and Karen Geraghty also want to give preference in awarding city contracts to companies that offer benefits to employees in a domestic partnership. The two councilors plan to propose an ordinance to that effect this month.

The registry would not provide gay men and lesbians any immediate benefits, but would "draw attention to the fact that these are committed relationships, they are no different than people who have the legal right to form partnerships and unions," Geraghty said Wednesday. "These are valid relationships - they have all of the same levels of commitment that other relationships do."

She said the ordinance would encourage businesses to recognize same-sex couples and would give those couples a legal place to go to document their relationships. Perhaps, she said, hospitals would grant visitation privileges to same-sex couples who were registered.



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