This page contains news for the period March 07, 2001 through March 13, 2001.
March 2001 >>
Wednesday, March 13, 2001
Wrongful-death bill for domestic
partners approved by committee in California
A story by the Associated Press reports that gay couples and others registered
as domestic partners could recover wrongful-death damages under a measure endorsed by the
Assembly Judiciary Committee of the California Legislature.
The bill expanding domestic partner rights was given added impetus by the dog mauling
death of San Francisco lacrosse coach Diane Whipple, whose partner, Sharon Smith, filed a
wrongful-death lawsuit this week.
Smith told lawmakers that it ``added insult to injury'' to learn that current law
disallowed domestic partners to recover damages in wrongful-death cases.
``Diane and I planned to share the rest of our lives together,'' she said. ``I'm here to
request that you remember her and acknowledge what she was to me.''
The committee voted 8-1 to advance the bill, sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Carole
Migden of San Francisco.
Whipple, 33, was fatally mauled in January by two dogs as she tried to enter her
apartment. Smith filed the lawsuit against San Francisco lawyers Robert Noel and Marjorie
Knoller, who kept the dogs in their apartment.
If approved by the legislature, Migden's bill would not be retroactive but would apply to
future cases. Smith said she still will ask the state courts to recognize her and Whipple
as a couple.
Critics believe that the measure attempts to undermine Proposition 22, an initiative
approved by a majority of California voters last year that defined marriage as a
solely male-female union.
``It's an end-run around the voters, it's an end-run around marriage,'' said Randy
Thomasson, executive director of the Campaign for California Families.
Friday, March 9, 2001
State benefits awarded to Maine domestic
A story published today by Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
reports that same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners of Maine state government
employees will be eligible to receive publicly funded health-insurance benefits
starting July 1.
The State Employee Health Commission, a group that determines
health insurance policies for state employees, approved the change
weeks ago, and Gov. Angus King let it stand.
Maine's finance commissioner, Janet E. Waldron, said the
new domestic-partner benefit would cost the state little. "It's a very
small number so it doesn't have any real financial implications," she said.
Waldron said she believes that the change will not be
controversial and felt no obligation to tell lawmakers about the change. "I
think it's really an equity issue," she said.
Carl Leinonen, executive director of the Maine State
Employees Association, said unmarried state employees have been contacting his
organization for years asking for health insurance coverage for domestic partners,
many of whom are heterosexual.
Leinonen, whose union is represented on the State Employee
Health Commission, said he expects fewer than 100 unmarried domestic partners of
state employees to sign up for the health insurance program, estimating that it will
increase the cost less than 1 percent.
Waldron conceded that critics like Michael Heath,
executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine who has begun an effort to
convince legislators to overturn the decision can seek to block the new benefit in
the Legislature. "The commission has the authority to enter into contractual
relationships (with insurance companies). The Legislature could choose not to fund
Rep. Tom J. Winsor, R-Norway, a member of the
Appropriations Committee, said he knew nothing about the change, even though it
had been approved by the commission nearly two months ago.
"I'm wondering how I can go back home and raise taxes to
pay for that,"Winsor said. "I don't believe a public entity doing it is the same
as a private company with profits and stockholders. . . . I'm surprised with the cost
of health care going up dramatically that we're adding people to it."
Winsor said he would prefer to have people enter a
traditional marriage, and worries about the direction society is taking. But he said
blocking funding for the entire state employee health-insurance plan would
Thursday, March 8, 2001
Tribune Company enacts domestic partner
Tribune Co., one of the nation's largest media companies now
has domestic partner benefits and has added sexual orientation to the company's
Many members of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists
Association (NLGJA) at Tribune/Times Mirror properties nationwide have been lobbying
extensively for the coverage and for inclusion in the nondiscrimination policy.
According to the new Tribune Co., same-sex and opposite sex
domestic partners are eligible for health benefits. However, no new adult dependents (such
as a parent) will be allowed in the plan. The Times Mirror plan had covered adult
dependents, and those who are already enrolled under Times Mirror when Tribune Co. bought
it will be grandfathered in.
To qualify for domestic partner benefits under the Tribune
Company's plan, one must "have an exclusive, committed relationship of mutual caring
that has lasted continuously for at least 12 months and is expected to last
indefinitely." One must also "sign a Domestic Partner Affidavit and a tax
declaration and submit them to your local human resources representative."