This page contains news for the period May 21, 2001 through May 28, 2001.
<< May 2001 >>
Saturday, May 26, 2001
Maryland man adopts partner of 32 years to
make relationship legal
A story published today by the Washington Post reports
that a Silver Spring, Maryland man has adopted his gay partner of 32 years to
establish a legal family relationship, since they can't get married.
The petition, was approved Thursday by Montgomery County
Circuit Court Judge DeLawrence Beard, giving the men the right to make decisions about
each other's medical care as well as claims of inheritance.
James Shrybman, the couple's attorney said that the couple
did not want to be publicly identified, and the court records are sealed, as they are in
most adoption cases. Other gay couples have succeeded at such adoptions, but the cases are
very unusual, legal experts say.
"These are two gay men who have been partners who have
resided together for many years," Shrybman said. "They wanted to establish
familial relationships, which they're barred from doing in terms of getting married."
Shrybman, who specializes in adoptions, said this was the
first time he had petitioned for one gay partner to adopt another. He said he has done
adoptions of children by gay couples and of young adults who are adopted so they can be
eligible for legal or job-related benefits from their adoptive parents.
Myron Dean Quon, a deputy director of the Lambda Legal
Defense and Education Fund, a national gay-rights organization, said that the success of
gay adoption petitions depends on the judge.
Some judges have denied such petitions, saying that the
purpose of adoption is solely to establish parent-child relationships. Others approve the
petitions, Quon said, because they realize that gay couples can't legally marry.
Quon said adoptions can be problematic because they are more
restrictive than marriage. "You can't have a divorce at some point," he said.
"It's not really a substitution for marriage for gay couples."
Friday, May 25, 2001
Decatur, Georgia to
offer domestic partners benefits
A story published today by the Atlanta Journal
Constitution reports that Decatur, Georgia is planning to extend health insurance and
other employment benefits to the partners of gay or unmarried heterosexual employees.
City Manager Peggy Merriss said that health insurance and
funeral leave would be the benefits most likely extended to partners. City employees
already can assign their retirement benefits to anyone they choose.
Merriss said she didn't know how many of the city's 200 full-time
employees would be eligible for domestic partner benefits. Part-timers in the proposal are
not eligible for benefits.
On April 27, DeKalb County became the first county in Georgia to offer domestic partner
Atlanta is the only Georgia city that offers the benefits, but
several cities, including East Point, are considering the matter.
The City Commission should receive on the issue a report from city
staff by August, said Merriss.
Thursday, May 24, 2001
Indiana Protestant church extends
health aid for domestic partners
A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the 831,000-member Christian
Church (Disciples of Christ) in Indiana has become one of the first mainline Protestant
denominations to authorize medical coverage for domestic partners of unmarried employees.
The decision was announced by the church pension fund, which had discussed the issue for
five years and agreed to consider coverage if July's national General Assembly approved
it. But the denomination's General Board said last month the pension fund should decide,
not the national meeting.
The proposed medical coverage, however, does not extend to pensions.
Unmarried couples living together
should plan for the future
A story published today by the St. Petersburg Times
reports that more than 5 million unmarried couples live together in the United
States according to a 1998 Census report.
The story suggests a couple of helpful tips for unmarried
couples in securing benefits and protecting their money and property:
Do research on your insurance.
Married couples are more likely to get discounts on their
homeowners, renters and auto insurance policies. Some insurers are willing to extend that
discount to domestic partners - and even to roommates, for that matter. Take the time to
call around for a variety of quotes.
Inquire about domestic partner benefits.
A lot of companies are now offering health benefits,
pension benefits, bereavement, sick leave and other provisions to the unmarried partners
of their employees. Ask your employer about what's available.
Contemplate in forming a contract.
When married people break up, they have a ready-made legal
instrument - the divorce proceeding - to help them keep some or all of their assets.
Unmarried couples don't have the same protection. Consider drawing up a written agreement
about your finances, property you owned before you started living together, and property
you bought or inherited during your relationship.
Remain financially independent.
Financial advisers suggest that unmarried people maintain their own
credit cards and bank accounts. However, they say it's usually not a problem to have a
joint checking account for basic household expenses.
Be cautious in cosigning.
Avoid cosigning a loan or applying for a joint credit card unless
you're prepared to assume complete and full responsibility for that debt.
Watch those real estate titles.
If you want your real estate or other property to go to your partner
after your death, you can title assets jointly with rights of survivorship. Recognize that
this approach designates both of you as owners of half the property, regardless of how
much money you put into the investment.
Common tenancy can protect your interest.
If you buy property together and one pays substantially more than
the other, you can become tenants in common and specify who owns what percentage of the
property in the deed. But with this approach, the surviving partner does not have rights
to the entire property.
Give thought to estate planning.
Make specific provisions in your will if you want your partner to
inherit your assets. Consult with a lawyer who has experience with wills, trusts and the
Avoid estate taxes.
Married spouses can transfer assets to each other tax-free. But with
domestic partners, assets valued above the $675,000 exemption can be hit with taxes of up
to 55 percent.
To transfer money without getting penalized, one partner can make
annual tax-free gifts of up to $10,000 to the other. Also, trusts can be used to transfer
stocks and real estate at a tax savings.
Mediation or arbitration can lessen the frustration.
If you do break up and you cannot resolve financial conflicts on
your own, mediation or arbitration proceedings would be faster, simpler and less costly
Wednesday, May 23, 2001
Maine's domestic partner laws
A story published by the Portland Press
Herald reports that Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of
Maine, has filed an application with the Secretary of State's Office to force a vote on
overturning the domestic partnership ordinance approved by the Portland City Council on
Monday, and reversing legislation passed by the state House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The Civic League measure also would prohibit all state and local governments, including
the state university system, from providing benefits to the domestic partners of their
employees, and would take health insurance away from the domestic partners of employees
who already have it.
"We are praying and thinking about it and talking with folks
who have concerns about this, about domestic partnership and the agenda of the gay
movement here in Maine and throughout the country," Heath said Tuesday. "We're
trying to develop a prudent and appropriate and helpful strategy."
In March, the State Employee Health Commission approved granting
health insurance benefits to gay and unmarried heterosexual partners of state employees.
The university system and the city of Portland have offered the benefits for some time,
and the ordinance approved by the City Council on Monday would require any recipient of
city funds to offer the benefits to employees.
On Tuesday, the House approved, by a vote of 91-49, a bill that
would require health insurance companies to offer domestic partner benefits if they offer
coverage to the spouses of plan members. The Senate has tentatively approved the bill, but
has yet to take a final vote.
State Rep. Ben Dudley, who sponsored the bill that the Civic League
would like to overturn, said that by requiring insurance companies to provide the
benefits, he is helping small businesses.
"Part of what it takes to run a successful business is
recruiting and retaining good employees, and they're going to do this with a good employee
benefit plan," he said. "Employees, more and more these days, are looking to
cover their domestic partners."
Karen Geraghty, a Portland city councilor who co-sponsored the
city's new ordinance, said she and others knew that Heath had applied to circulate a
petition. They already are organizing a coalition of businesses, labor organizations,
gay-rights activists and others to keep it from leading to new legislation.
She noted that domestic partnership benefits apply to unmarried
heterosexuals as well as to the partners of gay employees, and said that the issue is
"This is about denying people's access to health care,"
she said. "This is about inequity in the workplace. That's why employers are offering
these policies to unmarried partners . . . This is all about getting more people in Maine
access to health care."
The Secretary of State's Office is reviewing the petition now, and
has until June 4 to respond to Heath. Once that office and Heath finalize certain details,
Heath will be able to collect signatures he needs 42,101 to place the
question on the ballot.
If he gets the signatures, which, with his organization and
history, he likely will, the Legislature will have an option to enact his proposal.
That, however, is unlikely, because if Dudley's bill becomes law,
legislators will have again expressed their position on the issue. In that case, the
question will go to voters
3 U.S. cities tie for most
A story published by the USA Today reports that the cities
with the largest percentage of their population living together outside marriage are
Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Seattle with 3.6% of the residents identify themselves as
"unmarried partners". Rochester, New York and Manchester, New Hampshire
came close with 3.5%.
Susan Blexrud, director of communications for Orlando, says
the statistics on her city are "surprising but not alarming. We have a very diverse
population. We are growing and changing and getting a breath of fresh air."
She also says the city was rated fifth in Child magazine's
list of the best cities for families.
Fort Lauderdale mayor Jim Naugle says, "I really just
don't have an explanation for what is going on."
The total number of households with an unmarried partner
jumped 72% in the past decade. Although the numbers include both opposite and same-sex
couples, experts believe the majority of live-ins are opposite sex.
"Florida has a high percentage of senior citizens, and
it could be to their advantage financially to cohabit rather than marry," because of
Social Security and other issues, speculates Jason Fields of the Census Bureau's
Fields suggests that some university towns, which often
have a disproportionate number of young cohabitors, also may be candidates for the live-in
The top 20 towns include two more cities in Florida
St. Petersburg, 3.1%, and Tampa, 3% and two in California Berkeley and San
Francisco, each 3.2%.
Among the 238 cities the paper ranked, the one with the smallest percentage of live-ins is
Provo, Utah, with 0.4%.
Tuesday, May 22, 2001
Portland, Maine city council approves partnership ordinance
A story published today by the
Portland Press Herald reports that with a vote of 8-0 on Monday night, the city
councilors of Portland, Maine approved an ordinance that recognizes gay and unmarried
heterosexual couples as families and requires agencies that get financial support from the
city to recognize them as families too.
The ordinance changes the city's definition of family to include couples who register with
the city. It also requires agencies that receive city money to provide health insurance to
the domestic partners of employees, if their health insurance companies offer such
Councilor Peter O'Donnell, who
sponsored the ordinance with Councilor Karen Geraghty, said the ordinance is a logical
step toward providing equal rights for everyone, no matter their sexual orientation.
"I want to tell everybody what the
agenda is," he said. "It's the same basic human rights that everyone is entitled
to. . . . This is a small step. Some people think it's a symbolic step, but symbolism has
so much meaning."
And the law is more than symbolism.
Under the ordinance, any private school system or child-care program that receives city
money will be required to recognize unmarried partners who parent their students; let them
pick up the children from school or child care, and give them academic information.
Of the 21 members of the public who
addressed the City Council, three opposed the ordinance.
"What part of two referendums
against gay rights don't you get?" asked Carole Jean. "It's immoral and it goes
against all that's natural, that God gave us. . . . If you want all these gay rights, move
to Vermont, California or join the Dutch because they're very liberal, believe me."
Rita Kissen, whose daughter is in a
long-term relationship with another woman, was delighted with the vote.
Kissen told councilors about her
21-month-old grandson, Benjamin the son of her daughter and her daughter's partner.
"What Benjamin doesn't know yet is
that some people don't think that Benjamin has a real family because Benjamin has two
mommies," Kissen said. She said that the vote will "tell those kids . . . that
we support real family values."
Portland Police Chief Michael Chitwood
and School Committee Chairwoman Jill Duson also spoke in favor of the ordinance.
By passing the ordinance, Portland
became the 72nd municipality in the nation to offer a registry.
Under Portland's ordinance, couples will have to pay a $20 fee and certify that they live
together in an exclusive relationship "of mutual support, caring and
In order to dissolve the relationship,
they would have to file other documents at City Hall.