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Domestic Partnership News Archive
June 14 - June 20, 2001




This page contains news for the period June 14, 2001 through June 20, 2001.




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Wednesday, June 20, 2001

South Carolina’s 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 University Professors.

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. sparked anew

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 married couples.

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 families.

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.


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