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Domestic Partnership News Archive
March 21 - March 28, 2001




This page contains news for the period March 21, 2001 through March 28, 2001.





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Wednesday, March 28, 2001

Portland panel recommends domestic-partner registry

A story published today in the Portland Press Herald reports that Portland, Maine may soon join 41 other U.S. communities that officially recognize gay couples and unmarried heterosexual couples as families.

A City Council committee on Tuesday voted 2-1 to recommend that the city establish a registry to give committed couples new legal status as domestic partners. The proposal will go to the full council on May 7 which will hold a public hearing and vote on the proposal.

Portland's registry would give domestic partners some of the same rights as married couples such as visitation at city health facilities, access to children and their records at public schools, and eligibility for any city programs or benefits offered to traditional families.

Gene Rochow is a gay man who urged the councilors to recognize the commitment between him and his partner of 10 years.

"We co-own our house. We have a joint checking account. We share everything that we can, and if we were allowed to get married we would," Rochow said. "It just doesn't seem fair to have absolutely no recognition of that."

Kate Perkins said she is raising a son with her partner, the boy's biological mother. Perkins said, she does not have the right to attend parent-teacher conferences, see the child's school records or approve medical treatment. "(The registry) would make a profound difference in our lives," she told the councilors.

The proposed ordinance however, would not extend rights such as visitation and treatment decisions at Portland's privately run hospitals. City Attorney Gary Wood said the city only has authority over public health-care facilities.

In addition, part of the ordinance granting access to children and records in city schools would still have to be adopted by the Portland School Committee.

The registry would be open to same-sex couples or unmarried male-female couples who pay $15 and proclaim they live together in an exclusive relationship "of mutual support, caring and commitment."

Supporters said they hope Portland's stand will help convince other communities, and private institutions, to expand their definitions of family too.

"It's a good and right thing to recognize these couples who make families in Portland," said the Rev. Marvin Ellison, a Presbyterian minister and Christian ethics professor in Portland.

Opponents of the registry also spoke to councilors Tuesday.

"This comes at a time when our society is crying out for a strong family value and structure," said Paul Volle of the Christian Coalition of Maine. It sanctions adultery and sex outside of marriage, he said.

The Rev. James Reynolds, pastor of the Deliverance Center in Portland, portrayed the idea as immoral. "This country of ours is fast moving toward the judgment of God," he said.

Councilor Peter O'Donnell, sponsor of the ordinance, had initially considered a companion proposal giving preference to hiring city contractors that extend family benefits to domestic partners. The idea of  favoritism and preferential treatment faced broader opposition and was officially dropped by councilors Tuesday.

Most city councilors have already said they are leaning toward supporting the registry. O'Donnell and Tom Kane voted in favor at Tuesday's meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee. Jack Dawson, the third councilor on the committee, voted against it but suggested he may support an amended version.


Friday, March 23, 2001

Las Vegas paper supports state domestic partnership bill

The Las Vegas Review-Journal issued an editorial today supporting the passage of a domestic partnership bill now pending in the state Legislature.The full text of the editorial appears below.

"A bill introduced on Monday by Assemblyman David Parks, D-Las Vegas, would extend many of the legal protections married couples enjoy to consenting adults who have chosen to spend their lives together but have not wed.

Mr. Parks' proposal, Assembly Bill 496, would extend some of these privileges to unmarried gay or heterosexual couples. If the bill passes, a couple could gain these legal protections by formally entering a "reciprocal beneficiary relationship."

Couples in such a relationship would then be legally entitled to receive medical information on each other, make hospital or funeral arrangements for their partners, or control their estates. The bill would also provide statutory protection to partners who receive health insurance benefits from employers that have made them available, and would codify that unions have the ability to negotiate with employers for partnership benefits.

The measure steers clear of the discriminatory and coercive practices some other "domestic partner" measures have placed into effect. For example, a San Francisco city ordinance compels government agencies and private companies to offer benefits to unmarried couples. And Washington state government agencies must offer full partnership benefits to gay employees...but they are prohibited from extending those benefits to unmarried heterosexual couples. Mr.Parks' bill would impose no restrictions of the sort.

The bill will almost certainly draw opposition from cultural conservatives,claiming it is an indirect attempt to legalize gay marriage. But it's really nothing of the sort. As Mr. Parks points out, heterosexuals will be the primary beneficiaries of his bill, since there are far more unmarried heterosexual couples than gay couples.

AB496 is both sensible and compassionate. Without imposing major mandates on private businesses, it acknowledges that the law should no longer discriminate against unmarried couples, prohibiting them from enforcing contracts or making key decisions about the health and welfare of their partners. Lawmakers should pass it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Conservative German state to challenge   national partnership law

A story published today in Planet Out reports that the German state of Bavaria announced that it would be challenging the constitutionality of a national law granting rights to same-sex couples.

Bavarian Justice Minister Manfred Weiss charged that the law violates the Constitution's "protection of couples." According to the Associated Press, the conservative Bavarian government is also hoping to win a temporary injunction to keep the law from taking effect this summer.

"We reject this failed copy of marriage," said Weiss. "[The government is] turning its back on the model of the family as stipulated in the constitution."

The national law that was passed by the lower house of parliament last November, would permit gay and lesbian couples to register their unions with the state and grants the registered partners some immigration, co-adoption, hospital visitation and inheritance rights. The upper house of parliament, which controls much of German fiscal policy, declined last December to extend tax privileges in the package of benefits offered to same-sex couples.

Bavaria will be the first state to challenge the law in Germany's constitutional court -- the highest court in the country. But according to Agence France Presse, the state of Thuringen is also pursuing a legal case against the law in a lower court.



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