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Domestic Partnership News Archive
April 21 - April 27, 2001




This page contains news for the period April 21, 2001 through April 27, 2001.





<<   April 2001  >>

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Friday, April 27, 2001

Hallmark rejects domestic partner benefits package for employees

A story released today by the GLB News reports that gay and lesbian employees of Hallmark are beginning to wonder whether the company's commitment to employee diversity is anything more than a sappy sentiment. Hallmark Employees Reaching Equality, a gay and lesbian employee resource group, asked management last year to consider adding domestic-partner benefits to the employee package.

The group hoped that Hallmark would follow the example of hundreds of major corporations and extend health insurance and other benefits to employees' domestic partners. In March, Hallmark declined to offer the benefits package.

According to Ralph Christensen, senior vice president of human resources at Hallmark, the company reached the decision after nearly a year of careful consideration. The price tag of restructuring the benefits package was too high, he says.

But the costly packages under consideration would have provided coverage to employees' aging parents, grandchildren, or their relatives -- in addition to domestic partners. Some employees believe that lumping domestic partner benefits in with a larger package was just Hallmark's way of ensuring the benefit would be too expensive to implement. Others saw it as an attempt to soft-pedal the gay-rights aspect of the proposal.

Christensen insists Hallmark's decision was based purely on business. "The thing that drove this decision was the business needs that Hallmark has, as opposed to what's going on in a social agenda outside of Hallmark," he says. Besides, says Christensen, domestic partner benefits are not offered to heterosexual couples, so not offering them to gay and lesbian employees isn't discriminatory.

"We have plenty of unmarried heterosexual couples, and we've dealt with them exactly the same as we have with our gay and lesbian employees," says Christensen.


Thursday, April 26, 2001

University of Colorado regents ponder on domestic partner benefits for employees

A story published today by the Colorado Daily, a campus newspaper at the University of Colorado, reports that some members of the University of Colorado board of regents have won the praise of gay rights advocates for trying to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and for trying to hammer out a proposal to extend benefits to the domestic partners of CU employees.

The expectations of gay and lesbian advocates were raised last December when Regent Jim Martin introduced a resolution that would add the phrase "sexual orientation" to the university's nondiscrimination statement.

The university's statement already frowns on discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, creed, religion or veteran status. This Thursday, for the second time since Martin's resolution was introduced, CU students will hold a campus rally to urge regents to support the measure.

Regents Bob Sievers and Susan Kirk, both Democrats,  also introduced a resolution that allows domestic partners of CU employees, retirees and their dependents to enroll in a CU employee health plan. The proposal was unveiled at a regents meeting in Montrose earlier this month.

Though the resolution is being embraced by gay and lesbian advocates as a potential victory, Sievers is quick to point out that the resolution would also extend benefits to unmarried heterosexual couples.

"This is just about health benefits," Sievers said.

Under the proposal, domestic partners are defined as two adults who are financially interdependent and have shared a principal residence for more than one year. An affidavit of domestic partnership would also have to be completed before the benefits received are approved.

"We tried really hard to stay away from definitions of marriage and arguments over what the relationship had to be like or any of that sort of thing," Sievers said. "It's intended to, just as a matter of fairness, treat all of our employees the same way."

He adds that the definition of domestic partnership will likely be narrowed before an expected vote at an Aug. 2 meeting so that close relatives would not be eligible for benefits.

If passed, the resolution would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2002.


Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Vermont House Judiciary Committee pushes ahead in repealing state civil union law

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Vermont House Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to continue working on a bill that could eventually lead to a repeal of civil unions.

The committee is one vote shy of an outright repeal of the law that grants the rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples.

But committee members who support the repeal agreed to continue working on a bill that would offer an alternative to civil unions.

''I will vote for the reciprocal partnerships bill to get this out on the floor as a vehicle for a repeal bill,'' said Rep. Carl Haas, R-Rutland.

Reciprocal partnerships are a concept conceived by Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Peg Flory that would repeal civil unions and offer such partnerships to all couples who are currently prohibited from marrying under state law. This includes same-sex couples, who won marriage rights and benefits through civil unions, as well as blood relatives.

Flory's goal with her bill is to expand the number of couples who could qualify for benefits without using sexual orientation as the criterion for obtaining them.

Opponents of civil unions don't like the strategy of supporting Flory's bill solely as a parliamentary maneuver.

Rev. David Stertzbach of the Vermont Defense of Marriage Committee wrote to legislators late last week warning them that such a strategy was unacceptable to his group.

"We believe Vermonters deserve (an) honest, straightforward vote on the repeal of civil unions in committee and on the House floor without any unprincipled votes for reciprocal benefits for homosexuals even as a parliamentary maneuver,'' he wrote. ''It would sadden me to report to voters that any conservative voted for reciprocal benefits.''

Among the issues with Flory's bill that trouble civil unions opponents is that it would require them to support a bill that would grant rights to gay and lesbian couples.

"This bill further diminishes marriage,'' Haas told his committee.

Still, repeal supporters on the Judiciary Committee do not believe they have much choice if they want to force a vote.

Rep. Harvey Otterman, R-Topsham, said he did not like to see a bill ''bottled up in committee,'' so he would support Flory's bill and then make a judgment later on whether to vote for repeal if such a proposal were made on the floor.

Australian bill for gay rights adds legal proof requirement

A story published today in the Melbourne Herald Sun reports that  Australian gay couples might have to prove to a court that they are in a sexual and committed relationship under changes to the Bracks Government's same-sex legislation. The couples would also have to prove that they live together to get the same rights as heterosexual de facto couples.

The Government was forced to make changes to its Statute Law Amendment (Relationships) Bill after the opposition said it would destroy long-term relationships such as marriage and the family.

The Bill is designed to prevent discrimination against same-sex couples and give them similar rights to heterosexual de factos in areas such as property and retirement.   It also changes the definition of spouse to "domestic partner" in 44 Acts of Parliament.

Government spokeswoman Jane Wilson said that while most of the 44 Acts referred to domestic partners living together there may be exceptional circumstances where cohabitation was not possible, such as where one person was in hospital with AIDS or one was a victim of domestic violence. The opposition and independents were concerned that "domestic partner" was defined too broadly.

"Marriage and de facto relationships require cohabitation and permanency," said Robert Dean.

"The Government created this new definition and left out cohabitation and permanency. They have now scrapped the broad definition of domestic partner and included the word couple, which means cohabitation. They are also including a clause which sets out the criteria a judge must consider, which includes permanency."

Dr. Dean said the opposition party would wait to see the amendments, which were expected to go to Cabinet on Monday, before deciding whether to support the Bill. Attorney-General Rob Hulls yesterday said the "general philosophy" of the Bill would not change.

"There might be some additional words added in relation to what a court will have to take into account when defining a domestic relationship," Mr. Hulls said.

Member of Parliament Susan Davies insisted on the change requiring a court to consider a list of criteria before deciding if a domestic partnership existed: "There will be a list of criteria that a judge will take into account, such as whether a sexual relationship exits, the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life and the duration of the relationship."

Her other criteria include the care of children, the extent of common residence, the ownership of property and degree of financial dependence.


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