This page contains news for the period April 21, 2001 through April 27, 2001.
April 2001 >>
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
Her other criteria include the care of children, the extent of common residence, the
ownership of property and degree of financial dependence.