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Domestic Partnership News Archive
July 14 - July 20, 2001




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



<<   July 2001  >>

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Thursday, July 19, 2001

California’s San Diego county approves domestic partner benefits to county employees

A story published today by the Union-Tribune reports that the San Diego County government has quietly made medical benefits for domestic partners available to its employees.

County officials said they do not know how many of the 17,000 county employees will take advantage of the domestic partner benefits or what it might cost the county.

San Diego County is not the first local government agency to offer such benefits. Workers for the city of San Diego can purchase medical benefits for domestic partners if they list them as a tax dependent.

The county's program is similar.

In an interview yesterday, Supervisor Ron Roberts defended the decision.

"It's not about endorsing a lifestyle," Roberts said. "It's about being fair to our employees."

Rusty Burkett, president of the Deputy Sheriff's Association of San Diego County, said the domestic partner issue did not create a controversy when it was offered to his union.

"There's a lot of guys and gals who live with their girlfriends and boyfriends so that kind of took any punch out of anything someone would say," Burkett said.

About 2 percent of the U.S. population, approximately 5.5 million people, lives as unmarried partners, according to the latest U.S. Census.

Domestic partner benefits are becoming more common in private industry, and "the county is catching up with the times," said Jess Durfee, of the San Diego Democratic Club, a gay organization. "It's long overdue."

County employees can cover a domestic partner for health, dental and vision plans as though they were a dependent. To do so, the employee and partner must sign a form stating they are unmarried partners.

Georgia's Fulton county rejects domestic partner benefits

A story published today by the Atlanta Journal and Constitution reports that Georgia's Fulton county on Wednesday soundly defeated a plan to give unmarried couples health insurance.

The County Commission voted 5-2 to reject domestic partnership benefits, which would have let gay and heterosexual county employees who have lived with a partner for at least a year apply for insurance for their partner.

Commission Chairman Mike Kenn who voted no said no one could say how much the benefits would cost the county, and that the ordinance was broadly written. It would have required that a county employee and partner not be married or legally separated from anyone else, and that they not be related by blood. Employees also would have had to notify the county within 30 days if a relationship ended.

"With those kinds of lax eligibility requirements, almost anyone could have applied," Kenn said.

Patrick O'Connor, the county finance director, said each person added to Fulton County's insurance plan costs the county about $2,400 a year. O'Connor said it was impossible to predict how many people would apply for the benefits.

Commissioners Bob Fulton, Tom Lowe and Bill Edwards also opposed the legislation. Only Commissioners Nancy Boxill, who introduced the ordinance, and Karen Elaine Webster, who seconded it, voted for the proposal.

Fulton said after the vote, "I just don't think that kind of program is an appropriate program to fund with taxpayers' money."

Edwards said he was "willing to give it to the homosexuals, but not the shackers."

Wednesday, July 18, 2001

German court clears way for same-sex marriages

A story released by Reuters reports that Germany's top court cleared the way on Wednesday for the introduction of same-sex marriages when it dismissed efforts by two conservative regional states to block a new law.

Starting next month, lesbian and gay couples in Germany will be able to wed in registry offices and share a common surname.

The constitutional court in Karlsruhe dismissed appeals by the states of Bavaria and Saxony to block the law, court officials said.

The two states said the law, which has already passed through parliament, was an attack on traditional family values.

Under the law, homosexual couples will be entitled to the same inheritance rights as heterosexual couples and foreign partners of German gays and lesbians will be allowed to join them in Germany.

``The registration of same sex partnerships does not damage the family or marriage. The protection of marriage and family life should not mean discriminating against homosexuals,'' the Green party said in a statement.

But Bavaria's conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party of the opposition Christian Democrats, blasted the court ruling as a ``black day for families.''

The law will come into force although the constitutional court still has to give a final decision on whether the law contravenes the German constitution. A decision is expected next year.

Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Researchers say domestic partner relationships do not harm children

A story published by the New York Times reports that a research paper that is stirring both interest and controversy which was written by two sociologists argue that there is no evidence that having gay or lesbian parents harms children. In reviewing two decades of research on the topic, the authors have also concluded that social scientists in fact have found provocative differences, but have played them down for fear that their findings will be misused.

"It doesn't make sense to claim that there are no differences based on the research that's been done so far," said Dr. Judith Stacey, a professor of sociology and gender studies at the University of Southern California and the lead author of the paper, which appeared in The American Sociological Review.

Dr. Stacey and a colleague, Dr. Timothy J. Biblarz, also of U.S.C., reviewed 21 studies of the children of gay or lesbian parents published from 1981 through 1998.

The sociologists noted that in many studies, they said, there are suggestions that both the experience of having two parents of the same sex and of growing up in a home accepting of homosexuality influence children's behavior, self-image and life goals.

Some of the distinctions noted by researchers, Dr. Stacey said, had to do with attitudes toward sexuality and sexual behavior. Others involved how flexibly children interpreted gender roles: several studies, for example, found that the sons and daughters of lesbian mothers were less likely to have stereotyped notions of masculine and feminine behavior, and more likely to aspire to occupations that crossed traditional gender lines.

Still other studies, Dr. Stacey and Dr. Biblarz found, charted differences in how children raised by gay or lesbian parents expressed themselves verbally, how close they were to their biological mothers' partners, and how equally their parents divided parenting duties and household chores.

And while many researchers found that the children of homosexual parents often faced teasing and harassment from their peers, the sociologists wrote, the studies also showed that such children "seem to exhibit impressive psychological strength."

Yet in spite of these "provocative" findings, Dr. Stacey and Dr. Biblarz said that many researchers virtually turned their backs on such results.

"We recognize the political dangers of pointing out that recent studies indicate that a higher proportion of children with lesbian/gay parents are themselves apt to engage in homosexual activity," Dr. Stacey and Dr. Biblarz wrote in their paper. "Nonetheless, we believe that denying this probability is apt to prove counterproductive in the long run."

In an interview, Dr. Stacey said she was not suggesting that the researchers were actively censoring their results.

Rather, she said, "People are appropriately anxious when the consequences are so weighty, and when your research is going to be so instantly taken up and used in a variety of contexts."

"It's not so much political correctness but political anxiety," Dr. Stacey added.

The claim that researchers have played down differences when they have found them was greeted with some skepticism by Dr. Susan Golombok, whose 1996 study of the children of lesbian couples was among those mentioned in the review paper.

Dr. Golombok, a professor of psychology at the City University in London, said she found the Stacey- Biblarz analysis of her work "a bit disingenuous."

"The implication is that we have somehow distorted or misrepresented our findings, and I feel it's rather unfair," Dr. Golombok said. "We've always been very straightforward about our findings."

Homosexual parenting remains a politically charged issue, even as the number of children with openly gay mothers or fathers has increased.

The findings of researchers are often cited in custody disputes involving gay or lesbian parents and swept up into larger societal debates over a variety of gay rights issues, including same-sex marriage and gay adoption.

A vast majority of these studies have concluded that the sons and daughters of gays and lesbians are no more anxious, depressed, insecure or prone to other emotional troubles than the children of heterosexuals. And most researchers, including Dr. Stacey and Dr. Biblarz, find these results convincing, because they have remained consistent across studies carried out under a variety of conditions.

But conservative critics, among them Mr. Lynn D. Wardle, a law professor at Brigham Young University, who has argued that the custody of children should be presumptively awarded to heterosexual parents, have criticized the methods of many studies and charged that research on gay parenting is tainted by researchers' ideological bias in favor of gay rights.

On the other side, many researchers assert that the critics are often themselves biased, and that they distort and misrepresent scientists' work.

In this polarized climate, any finding of "difference" in the children of homosexual parents has often been equated with "deficit." And scientists who study sexual development in such children have found the path perilous.

"The politics in this area are very paralyzing," said Dr. John Michael Bailey, an associate professor of psychology at Northwestern University, who studies sexual development. "Every camp wants to use the results to further the result they want."

Canadians in favor of same rights for homosexuals, survey suggests

A story released by the Canadian Press reports that a Canadian survey conducted by the Leger Marketing  indicated that 75.7 percent of Canadians felt gays and lesbians should have the same rights as heterosexuals. The same poll also showed that 53.1 percent of the respondents believed homosexuals should have the right to adopt children.

"There's a definite laissez-faire attitude of Canadians toward homosexuality," said Christian Bourque, vice-president of Leger Marketing.

Homosexual adoption has also been a hot topic lately in Canada when a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge recently ruled that homosexual couples have the right to adopt children in that province.

Currently same-sex adoptions are allowed only in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, with Alberta including its provision under an allowance for same-sex step-parents.

In Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, 85.5 per cent of respondents said gays should have the same rights as heterosexuals. Other regional numbers were British Columbia, 76.5 percent; Alberta, 71.5 percent; Ontario, 69.8 percent; and Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 67.3 percent.

Gay-rights groups hailed the poll results as another sign that attitudes are changing.

"As people come to know us -- who we are -- I think they recognize there's no rational reason for denying us equality," said John Fisher, executive director of EGALE, a national gay-rights organization.

"I think it's clear that Canadians support the rights of gays and lesbians to be treated like equal citizens and to be respected in all aspects of our lives."

Canadians also seemed prepared to offer greater recognition of homosexual couples, with 74.5 percent of respondents saying gay couples should have access to the same tax benefits as heterosexuals and 65.4 percent saying they supported access to same-sex marriages.

Monday, July 16, 2001

AASP member in Virginia keeps her day care license for now

A story published today by the Virginian-Pilot reports that Virginian day care owner, Darlene K. Davis can continue to operate her home-based day care until state licensing officials decide whether to renew her license.

Davis, 61, was told last month that as long as she had a live-in boyfriend, she was in danger of losing her license to operate Davis Day Care. Virginia Department of Social Services officials told her about the extension through a letter she received Friday.

``I haven't done anything to have my license taken from me,'' Davis said. ``All of my parents are behind me, all of my friends, and I just don't think they have the right to take away my license just because I live with someone.''

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has shown its support for Davis, who has been a day-care provider for 30 years.

The ACLU warned Social Services officials last month that they could be infringing on Davis' constitutional rights.

The American Association for Single People, based in Glendale, California, also warned Social Services of constitutional violations. The nonprofit sent a letter citing a 1979 Virginia Supreme Court decision which states ``unmarried cohabitation should not preclude an otherwise competent and honest person from obtaining a professional license in Virginia.''

Davis is a member of the nonpartisan group, which protects the human rights of single individuals, couples, parents and families.

Davis and Cohen, 63, have been living together for 17 years at her home on Crafford Street in the Bromley neighborhood. Davis, a widow, does not want to get married because she will lose her military health benefits.

The state is conducting its investigation to determine whether Davis' living arrangement with Cohen violates a 1877 state law that prohibits unmarried couples to live together.

``I believe that the right thing will be done,'' Davis said.

Saturday, July 14, 2001

Michigan firm wins Florida county contract bid due to domestic partner benefits policy

A story published today by the Sun-Sentinel reports that for the first time since Florida’s Broward County began offering incentives to gay-friendly companies two years ago, a Michigan-based firm has won a government contract because it provides domestic-partnership benefits.

The incentives swung a $9.4 million deal to redevelop the North Andrews Gardens neighborhood near Fort Lauderdale to Douglas N. Higgins Inc.

The Michigan company normally would have lost the contract but received a slight advantage in bidding because the company extended same benefits to the partners of gay employees as it does to spouses of heterosexual workers. County purchasing officials said the losing company, Lanzo Construction of Pompano Beach, does not offer the same policy to their employees.

"It's an important step because the purpose of putting in the preference was to give companies a reason to follow suit and offer benefits like the county does," said Jamie Bloodworth, who lobbied for the ordinance. "It's basically a matter of compensation equality. If you're offering benefits to a traditional family, you should be offering them to non-traditional families."

The contract calls for Douglas N. Higgins Inc. to improve the streets, sidewalks and utilities in the unincorporated neighborhood north of Fort Lauderdale and landscape the area.

It has taken two years for the incentive to have an effect because it's rare that two bidders are so close that the 1 percent incentive makes a difference. The county chose the incentive over mimicking a more sweeping law in San Francisco that requires any company doing business with the city to offer equal benefits to all workers. But the 1999 ordinance still put Broward at the forefront of local governments across the country in passing gay rights legislation.

The 1 percent incentive means that a company's $100,000 bid would be treated as being $1,000 lower if it offers partnership benefits. Thus, the firm would beat out a competitor that made a lower bid of $99,500.

Commission Chairman John Rodstrom originally had opposed the law because of concerns about the potential cost to the county but said time has shown those fears were unwarranted.

"This contract demonstrates the county is serious about its public policies and ordinances, and that if your company is doing business with the county, then having these benefits can help you when you're seeking work," he said.




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