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Domestic Partnership News Archive
May 01 - May 06, 2001




This page contains news for the period May 01, 2001 through May 06, 2001.





<<   May 2001  >>

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Friday, May 4, 2001

Ohio lawmaker introduces same-sex marriage ban bill

A story published today by the Gay People's Chronicle reports that the Ohio House is considering a same-sex marriage ban that also denies recognition of many rights to non-married couples, both gay and straight, including out-of-state child visitation and domestic partner benefits.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican,  is a collaborative effort between the Republican caucus and the Cincinnati Citizens for Community Values.

Following an April 6 Gay People's Chronicle analysis of the bill, its author, attorney David Langdon of CCV, who also prepares anti-gay briefs for the Ohio chapter of the American Family Association admitted that the draft version had parts that were "not clear" and the final version would be "tweaked."

According to Cleveland attorney Tim Downing, who gave the introduced version a quick read, the changes made to the final version "made the bill worse."

"It is less clear and overly broad," said Downing. "And it is inconsistent and vague because the term 'specific benefits of a legal marriage' is undefined."

Downing also asserts that the bill is unnecessary to prevent same-sex marriage in Ohio because "the current marriage statute in Ohio could not be clearer."

Current Ohio law only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman.

Human Rights Campaign director Elizabeth Birch labeled this bill a "super DOMA," because like those proposed in a few other states, it is an attempt to block all unmarried couples from benefits and rights of legal marriage. These including custody and visitation orders from other states and financial benefits granted in other states.

"They use marriage and the Boy Scouts to attempt to co-mingle gays with children," said Birch. "They sweep these bills in through the potency of the term marriage, which does not poll well for us, and attach it in reality to civil unions and domestic partner benefits, which most Americans support. It is a Trojan horse."

Seitz says the purpose of this bill is to prevent a couple from having a civil union in Vermont and moving to Ohio expecting their union to be recognized.

Neither Ohio nor any other state recognizes the civil unions granted by Vermont.

Thursday, May 3, 2001

Alaska bill targeting state-funded abortions flies through committee

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that an Alaska proposal intended to prevent the state from having to pay for abortions or to give benefits to unmarried partners zipped through its only committee of referral in the Senate on Wednesday.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, said Senate Bill 210, which still must be scheduled by the Rules Committee, could be on the Senate floor within a few days.

Kelly said the right-to-privacy clause in Alaska's constitution states the Legislature shall implement that right, and that's what his bill does. SB 210 states that the right to privacy "does not create a right to receive public money, a public benefit, or a public service."

Kelly's bill originally stated specifically that the right to privacy did not include a right to state funding for abortion or for state benefits "based on a partnership other than marriage."

But he happily accepted the more general language that Sen. Robin Taylor, R-Wrangell, offered during a quick Judiciary Committee hearing. The new language will cover issues the Legislature may not have anticipated, Kelly said.

No one other than Kelly testified at the hearing Wednesday, which was held on less than 24 hours' notice. The Senate waived its rules requiring 24-hour notice before bills be heard.

"We've dealt with this over and over and over," Kelly said. "Everything that's going to be said about this has already been said."

A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the House, further speeding the process, Kelly said. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn Tuesday.

Kelly is frustrated with a 1999 decision by a Superior Court ruling that the state's ban on funding abortions for poor women was an unconstitutional infringement of the right to privacy. The court ruled the state couldn't discriminate among pregnancy-related services.

That case has been appealed to the Supreme Court.

The privacy clause also came up in a lawsuit, filed on behalf of several gay couples, that contends the state should provide health and other benefits to employees' unmarried partners. The suit argues that failing to do so violates the equal rights and privacy clauses of the Alaska Constitution.

The case was heard earlier this year in Anchorage Superior Court.

Kelly didn't provide a clear answer when asked whether the bill would be used as a way to resolve a conflict over abortion language in the House and Senate versions of next year's operating budget.

The Senate budget contains language killing the entire Health and Social Services Department budget if a court forces the state to spend money on abortions for poor women. The House budget does not contain the same language.

Differences between the budgets are being worked out in a conference committee.

Kelly, who is co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, helped write the abortion language in the Senate budget because he said he's frustrated that courts have forced the state to spend money on abortions despite the Legislature's attempts to prevent that.


Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Milwaukee council committee approves coverage benefits for same-sex couples in labor contract

A story published today by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that people on both sides of the issue packed the area where the Common Council committee was considering a labor contract that included health benefits for same-sex couples.

The 3-2 vote sends the matter to the full council, which will vote on the contract Tuesday. Another close vote is expected there on a measure that - if it didn't include the domestic partner benefits - would be a routine item.

But the inclusion of the benefits, which were sought by the union, has stirred community controversy, raised fears of a lawsuit by unmarried opposite-sex couples and, as illustrated by Wednesday's meeting that caused irritation among aldermen who weren't consulted before city negotiators agreed to the deal.

"My primary reporting relationship is to the mayor," labor negotiator Frank Forbes told members of the council's Finance and  Personnel Committee.

"We're going to continue talking to aldermen and hope for the same result next week," said Richard Abelson, executive director of District Council 48 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 2,300 city workers.

Supporters argued that the contract overall is a good deal for the city, and rejecting it now would undermine the bargaining process. Critics said the process went bad when Forbes did not seek input from the council on the same-sex benefits issue. Several aldermen said they learned about that element of the contract in the newspaper.

Now, they say, the city could face a lawsuit from unmarried opposite-sex couples if the benefits are extended only to homosexual couples.

But if the contract is rejected, a state labor complaint filed last week by AFSCME would go forward, creating its own legal problems. That complaint alleges that aldermen improperly tried to undermine the vote by seeking a city attorney's opinion on the prospect of a lawsuit.

Wednesday's hearing was attended by an overflow crowd, some carrying signs against the benefits, others wearing bright green stickers that read: "Contract - yes! DP - yes!" In recent weeks, some groups have organized a phone campaign to get aldermen to oppose the benefits on moral grounds.

The domestic partner benefits were controversial from the start - even within AFSCME. Although the full membership ratified the deal, a majority of delegates to the union's joint bargaining committee had voted against it.

The domestic partner benefits would take effect in 2002. They would include health and dental coverage and funeral leave for couples who are listed on the city's same-sex registry. That registry is open to all residents.

Aldermen were told, based on the experience elsewhere, that less than 1% of union members were likely to sign up for the benefits, which would cost a total of about $60,000 a year.

That estimate, though, did not attempt to measure the cost when accounting for other unions that are likely to get the benefit in future contracts, since the AFSCME contract generally becomes the model for other unions.


Tuesday, May 1, 2001

Louisiana Senate votes on same sex 'civil unions'

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that an attempt to make sure Louisiana does not recognize homosexual unions failed in the state Senate for the second time in a week.

Sen. Clo Fontenot, R-Livingston, said he brought the bill up for the second and final time at the request of other senators.  But the bill again got only 17 votes, three shy of the 20 needed for passage in the 39-member Senate.

It would have forbidden state recognition of domestic partnerships or civil unions such as those recently approved for gay couples in Vermont.

Louisiana already refuses to recognize gay marriages.  Fontenot said his proposal was needed because recognition of gay unions of any kind would be a violation of a long-standing state policy.

Portland, Maine city council favors same-sex benefits

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Portland City Council has expressed no serious objections to a proposal to officially recognize gay couples and unmarried heterosexual couples as families.

Councilors signaled support at Monday's meeting for the proposal that would make Portland the first city in Maine to give committed couples many of the same rights as wives and husbands.

The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing, and also vote on the ordinance May 21.

A number of U.S. communities already have some form of domestic partner registry giving committed, unmarried couples such rights as visitation at public health facilities, access to children and their records at public schools, and eligibility for programs and benefits offered to married couples.

"This begins the process of getting more acceptance throughout our city of domestic partners," said Councilor Peter O'Donnell, sponsor of the ordinance. "Then businesses, hospitals and all the entities in Portland may give partners the same basic rights as married couples."

The registry would be open to same-sex couples or unmarried heterosexual couples who can prove that they have lived together for at least six months and are in a relationship of "mutual support, caring and commitment."

Couples applying for benefits from the city of Portland or the School Department would also have to show evidence of a joint checking account or other documents demonstrating that they share financial obligations.

If all the requirements are met, the City or School department would then provide health insurance to the employee's domestic partner just as it does to an employee's spouse, and to the children of the partnership just as it does to employees' children.

Earlier this year, the State Employee Health Commission extended health benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners of Maine state employees.

The new policy has survived two legislative attempts to overturn it. Conservative Christian activists are considering a referendum to overturn the policy.


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