This page contains news for the period June 14, 2001 through June 20, 2001.
June 2001 >>
Wednesday, June 20, 2001
South Carolinas Furman
University to offer domestic partner benefits
A story released today by the Staff and Wire Reports states
that Furman University will become the first college in the state of South Carolina to
offer health insurance benefits to same-sex and unmarried couples.
None of the state's 33 public colleges and universities
offers benefits to domestic partners, nor do any of the 86 school districts, said Michael
Sponhour, spokesman for the state Budget and Control Board.
Furman, a private liberal arts university, is not officially
affiliated with any religion. The school broke ranks with the South Carolina Baptist
Convention in a 1992 dispute over who would elect the school's governing board.
"We want to ensure that all of our faculty and staff and
their families have access to our benefits," President David Shi said Monday.
"It's the right thing to do."
A history professor, Lloyd Benson, said the faculty will
probably accept the administration's decision, but he expects public backlash.
"In terms of the faculty, I don't think this is a very
significant shift," he said. "In terms of public acceptance of this, that's
going to be a different story."
For Shi, the benefits issue "is not one of theology, but
one of equity for all Furman employees."
Two of Furman's competitors, Duke and Emory universities,
have been offering benefits to domestic partners since 1995.
"It's becoming increasingly a business issue, in terms
of being able to recruit and make the institution more competitive," said Jack
Nightingale, associate secretary for the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of
Benefits will be available to domestic partners at Furman
Aug. 1. Coverage includes medical, dental, cancer and life insurance. All 704 full-time
employees are eligible.
Sunday, June 17, 2001
Battle for gay couples' rights in U.K.
A story released today by the Observer reports that British gay rights campaigners will
throw down the gauntlet to U.K.'s Labour party this week with a major campaign for legal
recognition of same-sex partnerships.
The new battleground will be over extending property, tax and other rights enjoyed by
married couples to same-sex partners. Lifelong gay partners have fewer rights than
distant cousins: there have been cases of partners losing their homes when their
lover dies since they have no right to inherit property, or shut out of decisions over the
treatment of seriously ill partners because they are not recognized as next of kin.
Liberal Democrats are ready to try to secure a change in the law through a private
member's bill in the House of Lords. Although it is unlikely to succeed, the aim is
to prod the Government into acting.
Spokesman Mark Watson said partnership rights reform could be more acceptable to MPs and
peers than the controversial battle over Section 28, which bans the promotion of
homosexuality in schools and the age of consent. 'We are not talking about 16-year-olds
having sex, or sex in schools, which everybody gets nervous about,' he said. 'This
is about couples saying, "We have been together 15 years and we don't have the rights
that a heterosexual couple who got married yesterday take for granted."
Watson said that the campaign would not necessarily push for legalized gay weddings, but
for a legal framework in which partners enjoyed basic safeguards that are available to
Thursday, June 14, 2001
Australia's Victoria state to enacts
comprehensive domestic partner law Reform
A story published today by the Sydney Star-Observer reports that after months of
turbulent negotiations with the Victorian Liberal party and a number of key independents,
the Bracks government is finally celebrating the passage of Australia's most comprehensive
gay and lesbian law reform.
Plagued by controversy since it was announced in November 2000, Victoria's Statute
Law Amendment (Relationships) Bill is expected to receive the governor's assent next
Tuesday, establishing the bill as state law.
"It is the biggest reform package ever put forward in Victoria, and will end
discrimination in areas like property law, superannuation, hospital visiting rights, stamp
duty, victims of crime and mental health," Victorian attorney general Rob Hulls told
Sydney Star Observer. "The most basic rights awarded heterosexual couples have been
denied gay, lesbian and transgender people for far too long, so obviously it's a very
proud moment for the Bracks government to be introducing this legislation."
Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Miranda Stewart congratulated
Hulls and the Victorian government for their patience in successfully guiding the bill
through parliament. "It is great news. It makes Victoria the only Australian state
with laws that are completely equal and transparent across the board when it comes to
domestic relationships," said Stewart.
Passed in the upper house last Tuesday by 35 votes to five, the bill amends 44 acts to
replace existing references to "de facto partner" with a new definition of
"domestic partner". The government will now put forward a further 19 acts for
similar amendments in the next sitting of state parliament late August.
"This is not the end of it - this groundbreaking legislation is just the start.
The further amendments will affect witness protection legislation, mental impairment
legislation and even less contentious pieces of legislation like the architect's act and
the estate agent's act," Hulls said. "We take the view firmly in Victoria that
to live in a true democracy, you can't continue to discriminate against people just
because of their sexual orientation. This legislation will end that discrimination from a
legal standpoint, but we must continue to educate the community so that tolerance can
continue to grow."
Federal appeals court upholds San
Francisco's domestic partnership law
A press release disseminated today by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund reports that
in a unanimous decision, a federal appeals court on Thursday upheld key parts of San
Francisco's landmark Equal Benefits Ordinance that would require city contractors to
extend benefits to their unmarried employees.
In 1999, U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken dismissed the entire case of S.D. Myers
that was brought by televangelist Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice.
They asserted that the EBO violates the Commerce Clause, federal due process guarantees,
and the California Constitution.
S.D. Myers immediately appealed and argued before the Ninth Circuit last November.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the arguments of the contractor who wanted to
do business with San Francisco, but refused to offer domestic partnership benefits to its
unmarried employees. The Court stated that cities have a legitimate interest in enacting
these laws and can refuse to contract with businesses that discriminate against unmarried
Additionally, the Court found that there is no undue economic burden placed upon
contractors by requiring that they provide domestic partnership benefits.
San Francisco was the first local government to stop granting contracts to companies with
benefit plans that discriminate against unmarried employees, including lesbians and gay
men. S.D. Myers, an Ohio-based company whose owners describe themselves as Christian
fundamentalists, sued San Francisco because the company believes it should not have to
obey laws that conflict with its owners' religious beliefs.