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