This page contains news for the period August 01, 2001 through August 06,
<< August 2001 >>
Sunday, August 5, 2001
British ministers vote to give
pensions to their domestic partners
A story published today by the Sunday Express reports that unmarried British ministers who
voted to give their partners the same pension rights as husbands and wives came under fire
last night for failing to provide the same security for ordinary workers.
Last month 38 members of the Government voted for the move and now campaigners are
demanding the law must be changed to give the same entitlement to doctors, nurses,
teachers, police officers, firefighters and local government workers.
But Liberal Democrat health spokesman Evan Harris, who proposed the MPs' amendment, called
for everyone with public sector pensions to benefit.
He said: "People simply won't understand why well-paid Government ministers and their
partners will now be able to receive these benefits in their public sector pension schemes
while at the same time denying these same benefits to low-paid public sector workers.
"This is straightforward discrimination against couples who are financially
interdependent but unmarried and it is for the Government to legislate to end this
Yesterday a spokesman for the GMB union, said: "There is a clear case of hypocrisy
here. Ministers cannot award themselves rights while at the same time denying them to
nurses, doctors, teachers and other workers. Tony Blair must move to end this anomaly
A TUC spokeswoman said: "We want fairness and consistency in pension rights. The
Government has accepted the principle of equality, but we want to see them putting that
principle in place."
Saturday, August 4, 2001
British unions call for pensions for
A story published today by the Times (London) reports that British unions from the public
sector are calling for unmarried partners to have the same entitlement as spouses to a
widow's pension in the wake of the row over the Ministry of Defense's decision to deny a
pension to the girlfriend of a soldier who was killed in action.
British lawmakers (MPs) have just voted to amend the rules of their own pension scheme to
provide unmarried partners with a pension on the death of their loved one, but more than
half of all public sector schemes discriminate against non-spouses.
Anna Homsi's partner, Brad Tinnion, a 28-year-old trooper in the SAS, was killed while
rescuing six British soldiers held hostage in Sierra Leone a year ago. The MoD grudgingly
agreed this week to reach a settlement with his partner, Ms Homsi, who has been denied a
18,000 GBP yearly pension, even though she is the mother of his eight-month-old daughter.
Glyn Jenkins, head of pensions at Unison, the public sector union, said that Ms Homsi's
plight highlighted the issue facing many public servants and their partners.
Any changes to the rules of a public sector pension scheme need to be approved by
Parliament, but before that stage the scheme members need to agree that it is necessary.
Changes in benefits are likely to mean higher contributions from members. As Mr. Jenkins
points out, many public sector employees already pay up to 6 percent of their salaries
into pension schemes.
In contrast to the public sector, just 12 percent of private schemes, refuse to pay
pensions to unmarried partners, says the National Association of Pension Funds.
Thursday, August 2, 2001
Milwaukee City Council approves union
contract extending health benefits to unmarried couples
A story published today by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
reports that with four aldermen switching votes, the Common Council reversed itself
Thursday and approved a contract with the city's largest union that extends health
benefits to all unmarried couples, not just same-sex ones.
The 10-7 vote came after a contentious debate over public
policy, private morality and financial reality.
Supporters of the new two-year agreement with District
Council 48 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said the
cost of extending the benefits - an estimated $220,000 a year, if applied to all city
workers - was small when compared with the potential $1.5 million a year loss if an
arbitrator gave the union higher pay increases than those in the deal.
But the actual costs could be higher, since it is hard to
predict how many city workers will sign up for the benefits. And critics argue that it
will be difficult to monitor when unmarried relationships begin and end, raising the risk
The city added unmarried opposite-sex couples to the package
to make it an easier sell with skittish aldermen, some of whom cited fears of a lawsuit by
opposite-sex couples when voting against the initial deal.
Thursday's council debate included scripture quotations and
aldermen saying the vote had left them seeking guidance from above. But in the end, most
looked to the financial bottom line.
In addition to Ald. Jeff Pawlinski, Aldermen Terrance
Herron and Rosa Cameron also supported the new deal after opposing the same-sex-only
version. Ald. Michael Murphy switched in the opposite direction, saying he could justify a
vote for same-sex-only benefits, since homosexuals cannot get married, but not for
opposite-sex couples, who can.
With the vote, Milwaukee joins a small group of government
entities - including Madison; Dane County; the Madison School District; and Bloomington,
Ind. - that offer what are termed "domestic partner" benefits to all unmarried
The contract covers 2001 and 2002, though the provision
extending health and dental coverage and funeral leave to unmarried couples won't kick in
until 2002. The contract includes pay increases of 2.5% this year and 3% next year, lower
than those in recent contracts in several suburbs.
In addition to Pawlinski, Herron and Cameron, those voting
for the contract were Aldermen Mike D'Amato, Paul Henningsen, Marlene Johnson-Odom, Fred
Gordon, Don Richards, Angel Sanchez and Marvin Pratt.
Opposed were Murphy and Aldermen Jim Bohl, Bob Donovan,
Annette Scherbert, Sue Breier, Tom Nardelli and Willie Hines.
Mayor John O. Norquist, whose labor negotiator accepted the
union's request for the same-sex benefits without advance council approval, could sign the
contract as early as today. The union ratified the deal on Monday.
"If they had turned it down again, we would have been
going into arbitration with almost no chance of winning," Norquist said Thursday.
"I don't think people will abuse this," he added.
"It's something that is increasingly common in (private) employee benefits packages
and public sector packages as well."
New York Surrogate Court judge
approves adoption by lesbian partner
A story released today by Staten Island Advance reports that Surrogate Court Judge John
Fusco yesterday allowed a local woman to adopt the twins of her lesbian partner. His
ruling marks the third time an adoption has been approved to a same-sex couple in Richmond
County, and the first for a lesbian couple.
"Everybody that comes into the Surrogate Court are bonded together either by some
type of relationship, blood, love or whatever," Surrogate Fusco said in his decision.
"There is nothing in my adoption files that is of any significance [to prevent
the adoption]. We understand it is a really good reason, absolutely, as with married
couples, the same thing. Here is the magical wand."
The judge waved his pen before the couple and their children. The ruling reflects a
growing acceptance on Staten Island of co-parent adoption for same-sex couples, and is one
that gay and lesbian rights advocates hope will galvanize homosexual couples to pursue
The lesbian couple, are one of thousands of same-sex parents raising children in New York
since a state court decided in 1995 that a couple, homosexual or heterosexual, does not
have to be married to adopt a child.
Because no state recognizes marriage between homosexuals, the ruling is particularly
important to same-sex couples trying to adopt in New York.
The opinion states that family courts must still decide whether the adoption is in the
child's best interest.
But the couple's adoption of the twins carries other potential benefits to the children,
says Sal Iacullo, co-founder of Center Kids, a Midland Beach-based support group for gay
and lesbian couples considering adoption.
For instance, in the event that the domestic partners decide to separate, the twins would
retain their filial ties to both parents. Had adoption been denied, one partner would have
no right to visit the twins, even if it were demonstrated in court that denying visitation
would be harmful to them, Iacullo said.
Only three states, Florida, Mississippi and Utah, have statutes prohibiting lesbian and
gay adoptions, according to data provided by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a
Manhattan-based gay and lesbian rights organization. There are 22 states, including New
York, that have granted second-parent adoptions, said David Buckel, a Lambda senior staff
In each state, the final decisions are made by a family or surrogate court judge who
considers the child's "best interest" -- a subjective term that is interpreted
differently among judges, according to the National Adoption Center in Philadelphia.
"That term gives judges a lot of latitude," said Gloria Hochman, the center's
director of communications. "There are some judges, in some places, who feel
that [same-sex couple adoption] is not appropriate and they bring their feelings to the
case, and we know some have done that."
New Jersey Court allows same-sex
partner to hyphenate last name
A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a New Jersey woman will be
allowed to hyphenate her last name to include that of her longtime partner, a state
appeals court ruled Thursday.
A lower court judge had ruled that a name change would create the false impression that
Jill Bacharach and her partner were married.
Thursday's ruling ordered that same judge to sign the paper that will change the woman's
surname to Bacharach-Bordman.
Name change applications are commonly rejected if attorneys prove a person is seeking to
avoid prosecution or debt, or to perpetuate a fraud.
Bacharach testified that she wanted to show she was committed to someone and that the two
were a family.
Those who filed briefs opposing recognition of the name change said it would provide a
"form of legitimacy'' to same-sex relationships that was contrary to the state's
Judge Donald G. Collester, however, disagreed.
"The legitimacy of such relationships is well-established,'' he wrote, citing the
state's law against discrimination and court decisions giving parental rights to same-sex
Wednesday, August 1, 2001
domestic partners allowed to exchange vows
A story released by the Associated Press reports that German gay couples exchanged
vows, rings and kisses Wednesday, celebrating a victory in their decade-old fight to claim
rights once reserved for heterosexual marriages and bring the country into line with its
The new German law allows gay couples to register their unions at government offices
and requires a court decision for divorce. Same-sex couples also will receive inheritance
and health insurance rights given to married spouses.
The law was passed by the lower house of parliament last year, but the upper house --
where the coalition of Social Democrats and Greens lacks a majority -- voted to withhold
some tax privileges granted to heterosexual couples.
Ceremonies also went ahead in Berlin, Hamburg, Duesseldorf and Magdeburg Wednesday, but
couples in three states -- Bavaria, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Hesse -- will have
to wait longer, as authorities there have delayed implementing the new law.
``Treating them practically the same damages that special status,'' said Hermann
Regensburger, Bavaria's deputy interior minister. ``Older people and those anchored in the
church support our position.'' The law brings Germany into line with countries such as
Denmark, which was the first to grant rights to gay couples in 1989, and France and
Sweden. It also underlines growing tolerance in a country where the Nazis persecuted gays,
and where homosexual couples have been allowed to live together only since 1984.