This page contains news for the period March 29, 2001 through March 31, 2001.
March 2001 >>
Friday, March 30, 2001
Vermont lawmaker wants to replace
civil unions with partnership plan
A story published today in the Burlington Free Press reports that Vermont's head of the
House Judiciary Committee believes that two sisters who share a home deserve the same
rights and benefits now granted to married couples and legally united homosexual couples.
Rep. Peg Flory, R-Pittsford, wants to repeal the state's controversial civil-union law and
replace it with a much broader, reciprocal partnership plan.
The Legislature made history last year when it passed a law creating civil unions for gay
and lesbian couples. Beginning in July, two men or two women could form legally
recognized civil unions, which would make them eligible for most of the legal benefits
enjoyed by married couples.
Flory who opposed the civil-union law stated, "My position has been that to
distribute benefits in a parallel system (to marriage) that is exclusively based on sexual
orientation is not an appropriate action for the state to take."
Under the proposal that she shared with her committee Thursday, two people age 18 or older
who are legally prohibited from marrying would be allowed to form a contractual
partnership. Relatives, such as two brothers or a mother and daughter, as well as
homosexual couples, would be eligible for the same benefits, protections and
responsibilities as a husband and wife -- if they formed a reciprocal partnership in
Lawmakers are talking about civil unions again this year because the issue figured
prominently in many legislative elections last fall. Some legislators won on promises they
would pursue repeal of the law.
Ardent critic Rep. Nancy Sheltra, R-Derby, said that Flory's proposal falls far
short of her goal.
"I can tell you that a lot of people aren't going to settle for anything less than
repeal," Sheltra said. "That is what Vermonters expect."
On the other hand, Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, who helped write the civil-union law
and is gay, blasted Flory's replacement plan. "I think this is part of a
continuing political assault on the civil unions and gay and lesbian couples' desire to
have dignity, respect and legal rights."
Flory defended her bill by saying same-sex couples would still enjoy all the benefits they
were granted under the civil-union law. She changed the name of this parallel
institution to marriage, however, because "I wanted it clear this was geared to more
than just homosexuals."
Her proposal would eliminate the ceremonial element that is part of the civil-union
process. Couples would no longer need to have a justice of the peace or member of
the clergy certify their civil union. Under Flory's plan, couples would simply fill out
reciprocal partnership contracts, which would be widely available at locations such as
town offices, and send them to the state Department of Health.
The bill also proposes a simpler process to dissolve these partnerships than the divorce
proceeding for marriages and civil unions. Couples who mutually agreed to split
could simply file a declaration of dissolution with the Department of Health.
Embattled partners and those with children would have to go to family court to dissolve
their reciprocal partnerships.
Susan Murray, one of two lawyers who argued the gay marriage case before the Supreme
Court, said Flory's bill misses the point of the court ruling in the Baker case.
"The whole tenor and spirit of Baker was to recognize the intimate and lasting
relationships of gay people," she said. Instead, the Flory bill tries to equate
gay relationships with the "very different kinds of bonds that blood relatives
Murray added, "We aren't opposed to comprehensive benefits for blood relatives.
What we are opposed to is demeaning gay relationships."
Flory said the Judiciary Committee would discuss her proposal Tuesday. It's already too
late to expect the bill to receive consideration in the both the House and Senate this
session. Still, she said she would like to get a bill through the House before
spring adjournment, so the Senate could take it up in the winter.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Sears, D-Bennington, predicted Flory's bill
wouldn't heal the wounds created during last year's passionate debate over gays and civil
"If you think that doing something like this is going to bring people together,"
he said, "I just don't see that happening."
Financial seminar held for wealthy
A story released today by PR Newswire reports that affluent same-sex domestic partners and
members of unmarried couples gathered at the Argyle Hotel in West Hollywood yesterday to
learn more about developing a financial strategy that takes into account their unique
circumstances -- particularly when it comes to tax and estate planning.
The "Comprehensive Wealth Management Seminar for Unmarried Couples" was
sponsored by Scudder Private Investment Counsel, the group within Zurich Scudder
Investments that manages more than $16 billion in assets for wealthy individuals,
families, endowments, foundations and middle market institutions.
Ted R. Ridlehuber, president and CEO of the Cannon Financial Institute and an expert in
financial planning issues facing unmarried couples conducted the seminar. Mr. Ridlehuber
was introduced by J.R. Mathena, the Los Angeles-based Scudder Private Investment Counsel
vice-president who works most closely with the gay and lesbian community.
"In addition to the customary challenges of managing assets, a major concern for
affluent single gender couples is ensuring that their wealth goes to whom they want,"
said Mr. Mathena. "Estate planning for members of the gay community and unmarried
couples must consider that often there are no children involved, or when there are, only
one member of the couple is usually recognized by law as the legal guardian. There are no
joint tax returns, and when a member of a same-gender couple dies, there is no automatic
tax-free transfer of investments and assets."
"There is a real need among gays and lesbians, who control an estimated $800 billion
in assets, for customized financial solutions that mitigate their unique tax burdens and
estate allocation issues -- and also reflect the individual's investment
philosophies," said Mr. Ridlehuber.
Capitalizing on Zurich Scudder's detailed proprietary investment research and the
experience of Scudder Private Investment Counsel's investment professionals, the group
tailors portfolios and deploys a diversity of investment styles to help meet individual
clients' wealth-building objectives. Scudder Private Investment Counsel's comprehensive
wealth management approach is designed to work within each client's risk threshold
producing the maximum level of after-tax, risk-adjusted return.
Minnesota Family Council objects
to governor's domestic partner benefits plan
A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Minnesota Family Council
hand-delivered to Gov. Jesse Ventura's office Thursday hundreds of e-mails and letters
objecting to his plan to offer health benefits to same-sex domestic partners of state
Tom Prichard, the group's president, said taxpayer dollars should not subsidize unmarried
couples. He also stated that the offering would move the state in the direction of
recognizing gay marriage.
Prichard said the group will seek legislation or an amendment to a bill that would stop
Ventura's administration from putting the benefits on the table during this year's labor
``We're staying the course,'' said Employee relations commissioner Julien Carter. ``This
is an important benefit to offer.''
Carter expects fewer than 1 percent of the state's 53,000-member workforce to take
advantage of the offering if it is included in contracts. But he said the benefit conveys
a more progressive workplace and would help the state compete for employees in a
Several Minnesota businesses are currently extending such benefits to their employees. The
administration has no plans to offer the benefits to heterosexual domestic partners,
British politician unveils inheritance
plan for gay couples
A story released today by the Daily Telegraph reports that gay couples and unmarried
heterosexuals will soon be able to inherit each other's retirement funds for the first
Ivan Massow, the maverick politician and independent financial adviser, aims to launch a
"pink pension", with backing from Friends Provident and NPI, next week. He
said yesterday that stakeholder pension legislation makes it possible to avoid obstacles
to this form of inheritance which exist in personal pension statutes.
Mr. Massow said: "Under the current rules, where a pension planholder dies after
retirement, trustees are only allowed to pay out survivor's benefits to widows or
"In theory, they could pay a survivor's pension where someone could prove they were
financially dependant on the person who had died but we have only managed that once in 15
"Now the stakeholder white paper makes it possible for gay people and unmarried
heterosexual couples to benefit from each other's pensions."
Stakeholder pensions are the Government's 'big idea' on retirement funding and go on sale
next Friday. A spokesman for the Department of Social Security, which is overseeing the
launch, said yesterday: "I have asked one of our pension officials about this and he
says there is nothing in the rules which specifically allows pensions for unmarried
partners -- but nothing which prevents it either."
But the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority said: "The key change is that the
stakeholder rules refer to interdependency' rather than restricting payments to widows or
Thursday, March 29, 2001
New Zealand passes property relations
bill for unmarried couples
A story released today by TVNZ News reports that New Zealand's parliament has passed a
property relations bill that would give defacto and same-sex couples the same property
rights as married couples after three years. Defacto is a term used to describe
unmarried opposite-sex couples who are living together in an intimate
Currently about 230,000 New Zealanders are in defacto relationships. Lawyers have noted
that it would be more difficult to decide at what point a defacto relationship has
started. It is easier to determine when a marriage starts but is often less clear
cut with defacto relationships.
The law has been changed to protect people in defacto relationships who have previously
missed out. Assets will now be split 50-50, but individuals who do not want that can opt
to "contract out" of the rules. A simple contract agreement would cost
The new law would also affect married couples. Judges will now have the power
to award lump sum payments which could take into account one partner's future earning
power. It is expected to be applied to women who have taken time out to look after their
children and have taken on part-time work because of the children.
These changes in the property law will be enacted next February, 2002.
New Zealand enacts legislation for
A story written by Nigel Christie an attorney from Wellington, New Zealand reports that
four new pieces of legislation with significance for same-sex couples were passed by the
Parliament in New Zealand on Thursday, 29 March 2001.
The bills were introduced in March 1998 to amend the Matrimonial Property Act of 1976 (for
married couples) and to create a new De Facto Property Act to provide property rights for
de facto different-sex couples. There was a strong debate about the inclusion of same-sex
couples, and the National Party Government of the time delayed final consideration of both
pieces of legislation to evade the issue of same-sex couples since election time was
The newly elected Labour/Alliance Coalition Government reactivated the legislation late in
1999 which incorporated both bills into one piece of property legislation designed to
provide for married couples, de facto different-sex partners, and same-sex partners.
The Bills which have now been passed are:
1) The Property (Relationships) Amendment Act 2001. This will provide same-sex
couples and de facto different-sex couples the same relationship property rights (and
obligations) as married couples and upon the dissolution of a relationship.
Essentially, there is to be a presumption of 50-50 division of property for couples who
have been together in a relationship "in the nature of marriage" for a period of
three years or more. Division is based on contribution to the relationship (not just to
the relationship property). A provision in the bill also allows couples to "contract
out" of this set up.
2) The Administration Amendment Act 2001. This will give same-sex partners access to the
same rights married partners enjoy in relation to the estate of a deceased partner who has
3) The Family Protection Amendment Act 2001. This will provide same-sex partners with the
same rights and legal standing to make a claim against the estate of a deceased partner
where, for example, the deceased's will is out-of-date or has failed to make provision for
the surviving partner.
4) The Family Proceedings Act 2001. This will provide for "spousal maintenance"
after dissolution (where necessary) - but is a separate issue from the division of
The most contentious issues for conservative opposition groups have been:
(a) the inclusion of same-sex couples and de facto opposite-sex couples in the same
provisions as married couples - many arguments center around the "sanctity of
(b) the provisions relating to "future economic disparity" and ability of the
courts to award a lump-sum payment to offset this;
(c) the fact that property legislation will now apply to, for example, the situation where
a married man has a "secondary (de facto) relationship" - and the de facto
partner makes some form of claim. That is, the provisions apply to successive and
All this legislation comes into effect on 1 February 2002.
California's civil union bill amended
to exclude heterosexual couples
A bill to create "civil union" as a new legal status for unmarried couples who
are living together in a committed relationship was amended by its author today to exclude
heterosexual couples. As originally drafted, the measure would have allowed any two
adults who are not closely related by blood to enter into a civil union and thereby gain
all of the rights and incur all of the obligations of marriage under state law.
With the exclusion of male-female couples from its
provisions, the bill seems to take on the form of a quasi-gay-marriage proposal. It
gives all state law rights of marriage benefits to same-sex couples under the title
"civil union" but prohibits heterosexual couples and blood relatives from
Maine's legislative board rejects
domestic partner benefits debate
A story published today by the Bangor Daily News reports that Maine's legislative
governing board on Wednesday refused to admit a bill that would have allowed lawmakers to
debate the state's plans to extend publicly funded health insurance benefits to unmarried
homosexual and heterosexual domestic partners.
"I wish we didn't have to consider this," Michael Heath of the Christian
Civic League of Maine said of the referendum plans in a prepared statement Wednesday.
"There may be no other option. Augusta is controlled by political forces friendly to
the goals of homosexual activists."
Heath was referring to an afternoon meeting of the Legislative Council, a governing
committee of the Legislature composed of five Republican legislative leaders and five
Democrats. The council makes executive decisions affecting the Legislature, including
whether to allow after-deadline bills into the House or Senate. Rep. Brian Duprey,
R-Hampden, made the request for a bill allowing legislative debate on the issue of
insurance benefits for state employees and their partners. He said lawmakers never had
advance notice when the issue was presented before the Legislature's Appropriations
With little discussion, the council issued a 5-5 party line vote with Republicans
supporting the measure and Democrats opposing any effort to let the bill in. The tie
killed any chance of bringing the matter up for discussion in the current legislative
session. Duprey was considering, however, trying to strip funding for the insurance
benefits in an amendment to the budget which was scheduled for debate late Wednesday
evening. The lawmaker said he also was considering Heath's suggestion of a referendum.
"The people have spoken twice on the issue and maybe it's time for them to speak
again," Duprey said. "I would have liked the legislative process to take effect.
I'm going to drop back 10, decide to punt and figure out what I'm going to do next."
Heath said Duprey had raised a legitimate public policy question that needed to be decided
in Maine before the larger issue of civil homosexual unions divides the residents of
Maine. He said that in addition to the referendum, his organization will also evaluate the
practicality of bringing legal action against the state, although he remained circumspect
on that option.
Two weeks ago, lawmakers voted 85-56 to kill a joint order sought by Duprey that would
have also opened discussion on the issue of insurance benefits for partners of unmarried
state employees. The plan has already been sanctioned by the State Employee Health
Commission which approves insurance policies for state employees and has the support of
Gov. Angus S. King. Carl Leinonen, executive director of the Maine State Employees
Association, estimates the state's share of additional insurance costs under the enlarged
plan at between $150,000 and $300,000 for about 100 people.
Sen. Paul Davis, a Sangerville Republican who also serves as assistant GOP floor leader in
the Senate, said Duprey was right to insist that the Legislature weigh in on the insurance
issue. As one of the five Republicans on the panel to vote in favor of the after-deadline
request Wednesday, Davis said the council had made the wrong decision.
"Any change in policy like that ought to have a full hearing," Davis said.
"The public should be allowed to have a hearing. I have great concerns about us
providing insurance and things for [people not] in traditional marriages. I think we ought
to look at traditional marriages first before we look at providing insurance for