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Domestic Partnership News Archive
June 01 - June 06, 2001




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





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Tuesday, June 5, 2001

Nova Scotia’s same-sex couples register as domestic partners

A story published today by the Halifax Herald Limited reports that three Nova Scotia couples registered as domestic partners Monday, becoming the first gay and lesbian couples in Canada to have their relationships recognized by government.

The legislative bill which passed in the provincial legislature Friday, allows couples to register with the Department of Vital Statistics and receive many rights formerly reserved for married people.

Under the legislation, people who register as domestic partners - whether same-sex or heterosexual couples - are covered under the Matrimonial Properties Act.

The registered couple can have family assets divided or be required to pay spousal support if the relationship ends. They can also inherit the estate if their partner dies without a will and are allowed to view medical records and make medical decisions on behalf of their partner in an emergency.

"For people who register as domestic partners, there will be a significant change because a number of pieces of legislation will apply," said Lara Morris, a family law and human rights lawyer from Halifax.

Kimberley Vance and Sam Meehan of Musquodoboit Harbour, Ross Boutilier and Brian Mombourquette of Halifax and Nicky Perkins and Susan Perkins, also of Halifax, were first to register.

Bob Fougere, president of the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, said Bill 75 resulted from a Nova Scotia Appeal Court ruling last year and a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision giving same-sex couples the right to pension benefits. Mr. Fougere said the province has a long way to go to give same-sex partners rights equal to those of married couples, but this is a good first step.

"The province of Nova Scotia has introduced legislation that is far beyond the other provinces," he said. "So they should be proud of this."

Monday, June 4, 2001

Washington's High Court urged to rule in favor of  Vancouver's domestic partner benefits

A press release today by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is urging the Washington Supreme Court to reject a conservative taxpayer's assault on Vancouver's domestic partner benefits plan, and to leave in place the city's family benefits plan for unmarried city employees.

On Thursday, May 31, the Washington Supreme Court will hear argument in Heinsma v. City of Vancouver.

In 1998, the city of Vancouver extended its family benefits plan to to unmarried, gay and non-gay, city employees.

The conservative Virginia-based Northstar Legal Center sued the city in 1999 on behalf of a local resident, Roni Heinsma, contending that Vancouver cannot extend health benefits or any other protection to unmarried employees in committed relationships because doing so purportedly would conflict with Washington State marriage law.

In June 2000, the trial court rejected Heinsma's arguments and ruled definitively in the city's favor, pointing out that Vancouver has not tried to regulate family relationships in general as the marriage laws do, but instead is simply ensuring reasonable compensation for its own employees.

Heinsma then appealed.

Shortly after receiving the Lambda/ACLU amicus brief, the Court of Appeals, on its own motion, asked the Washington Supreme Court to accept review of the case.

Cooperating Attorney Karolyn Ann Hicks of Seattle's Stokes Lawrence, P.S. drafted the amicus brief, with assistance from Pizer and Aaron Caplan of the ACLU of Washington.

"Vancouver recognizes that providing equal insurance benefits to unmarried city employees is simply the fair thing to do," said Pizer who helped author the joint   amicus brief filed by Lambda, the ACLU of Washington, and the National ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.  She added, "Vancouver and its residents benefit when all city employees can rest assured that their families have basic insurance coverage, because peace of mind improves morale and effectiveness in the workplace."

Friday, June 1, 2001

Canadian province adopts broad-based domestic partnership law

A story published today by the Halifax Chronicle-Herald reports that the passage of Bill 75 in Nova Scotia's provincial legislature last Friday, will now allow gay couples registered with the Department of Vital Statistics some of the rights formerly reserved only for married couples.

"I'm pleased and happy this is happening here in Nova Scotia," said Russ Boutilier, who will be among four couples registering at noon Monday. "We've been waiting a long time."

The bill was prompted by a Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruling last year and a Supreme Court of Canada decision in 1999 that gave same-sex couples the rights to pension benefits.

Bob Fougere, co-ordinator for the Nova Scotian Rainbow Action Program, a lobby group for gays and lesbians, says he's thrilled by the changes.

"For the very first time, we will be able to have our relationships properly documented and recognized in law," Fougere said.

Under the legislation, there are now three classifications for relationships: common-law, registered domestic partners and married couples.

Common-law partners now include any two people living in a conjugal relationship for over two years. They are entitled to rights under income tax legislation and pension and insurance plans.

Those registered as domestic partners now have additional entitlements such as spousal support, protection under the Matrimonial Property Act and the right to see their partners' medical records and make medical decisions in an emergency.

"Up to this point we could be challenged by the family and be left completely out of the process," Fougere said. "Before, my partner could be in ICU, for example, and I wouldn't be allowed to go and visit him."

Boutilier said the thought of being kept away from his partner in a medical emergency has been a recurring fear.

"We promised ourselves we'd never face that," he said. "Now we don't have to."

Same-sex couples aren't the only ones to benefit from the legislation, affecting anyone who registers in a domestic partnership.

Boutilier said he thinks many heterosexual couples will take advantage of the change.

"I think many heterosexual couples are a little shy getting tied up in a marriage contract that is so very difficult to break," he said.

Under the act, however, gay couples still can't marry or adopt children.


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