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Domestic Partnership News Archive
August 07 - August 13, 2001




This page contains news for the period August 07, 2001 through August 13, 2001.




<<   August 2001  >>

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Sunday, August 12, 2001

British armed forces to give spouse rights to gay partners

A story published today by the Observer reports that the partners of British gay service personnel are set to be recognized as fully-fledged spouses for the first time, following a key concession by the Ministry of Defence.

After meetings with the Armed Forces Lesbian and Gay Association the MoD appears to have admitted that the gay partners of service personnel could be considered spouses.

The move, which would mean that gay partners could also receive pensions and other benefits, is controversial.  The prospect of homosexual couples living openly on army bases in the UK and overseas will concern the many opponents of reform.  One senior officer branded it 'political correctness gone mad' this weekend.  But the discussions in London have been welcomed by homosexuals in the forces.  Lt. Commander Craig Jones, one of the most senior officers to come out, said he would be keen to live with his male partner in Royal Navy married accommodation.

Homosexuality was forbidden in the armed forces until January last year. The ban, which led to up to 200 sackings a year, was lifted after the European Court of Human Rights ruled it unlawful.

An MoD spokesman said last week: 'The services are looking at the whole question of unmarried people living together, and homosexuality obviously has to be considered.   At the moment everything is predicated on marriage.'

Though there is still no provision for same-sex marriages in English law, the MoD policy favoring traditional families could leave it open to scores of legal challenges from unmarried couples -- homosexual or otherwise -- following the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law last year.

Prior to its removal, the ban on gay service personnel was justified on the grounds of military effectiveness. Conservative Armed Services Minister Nicholas Soames said the services should not be 'bludgeoned out of the esprit de corps that has won every war since 1812'.

But 10 months after the ban was lifted, a Ministry of Defence review of the consequences found that the operational ability of the forces was unaffected. 'The services reported that the revised policy on homosexuality had no discernible impact, either positive or negative, on recruitment,' the report said.

More employers now offer partner benefits

A story published today by the TBO.com reports that a growing number of Tampa, Florida area companies are offering health insurance and other benefits to unmarried couples.

Nationwide, about 25 percent of companies offer benefits to domestic partners. Some are only for same-sex couples, but many also include unmarried heterosexual couples.

The trend is increasing as more companies fight to attract and keep workers.

``Employers are trying to be more inclusive,'' said Kristin Bowl, media affairs manager for the Society for Human Resource Management, which does an annual benefits survey. ``They are recognizing that not all employees belong to the traditional family structure.''

In the Tampa Bay area, the companies that offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners are predominantly larger ones, including Capital One Financial Corp., Holland & Knight, JPMorgan Chase, Tech Data, Time Warner and Verizon.

Companies began offering domestic-partner benefits primarily as a recruiting tool, said Lindsay Bishop, consultant for Hewitt Associates in Lincolnshire, Ill. And as they become more mainstream, employees are starting to request them, she said.

``Companies are offering the benefits of the recognition of the new reality,'' said Daryl Herrschaft, of the Human Rights Campaign's WorkNet education project. ``People are just kind of beginning to realize it's not fair to treat someone differently who's been in a 10-year relationship, whether it's been with someone of the same sex or someone of the opposite sex.''

Some companies don't provide domestic-partner benefits because they harbor unrealistic concerns, experts say. They fear costs will rise because too many people will sign up for the benefits, and the population is a higher risk for HIV.

However, on average, only about 1 percent of employees sign up for domestic partner benefits, surveys show. And insurance costs rise by 1 percent or less.

A downside same-sex couples point to is that domestic-partner benefits are taxable as income.

Despite that, progressive employers are considering the benefits standard.

``Get with the program. It's starting to surprise me now that companies still haven't figured that out,'' said Andy Petterson, director of human resources for Holland & Knight. ``This stuff, it's a no-brainer.''

Unmarried British couples lose out in company health plans

A story published today in the Sunday Telegraph reports that in Britain, more than one in two company health schemes that extend cover to married partners discriminate against unmarried couples.

According to research done by employee benefits specialist William M. Mercer, just under 50 percent of all corporate health policies include employees' husbands and wives, but fewer than half of these cover common-law spouses.

There is even greater discrimination against same-sex partners, with only one in five company schemes accepting gay partners. However, with the increasing emphasis on equal treatment and inclusiveness, there are signs that more companies are looking to address this issue, says Steve Clements , a European partner.

Of the 527 companies included in the survey, 40 percent offered medical insurance to all their staff. But only 75 percent of employees actually take up the offer of cover.

Clements added: "The low take-up rate, even for full-timers, could be down to the benefit-in-kind tax charge and, in some cases, duplication of healthcare benefits between spouses."

Friday, August 10, 2001

Community college in Pennsylvania to offer domestic partner benefits

A story published today by the LeHigh Valley News reports that Pennsylvania’s Northampton Community College trustees unanimously approved a policy Thursday that will allow an unmarried partner of an employee -- of the opposite or same sex -- to enroll in the employee's health insurance benefit plan.

The policy allows unmarried partners of employees to have health and educational tuition benefits if the couple is sharing a long-term, committed relationship.

To qualify, the unrelated candidates must demonstrate that the couple is monogamous, has shared a home for two years and shares financial responsibility for the partners' well-being. The policy describes the relationship as "similar to that of marriage."

Wednesday, August 8, 2001

States follow Vermont's lead on civil unions

A story published today by the Rutland Herald reports that a little more than a year after civil unions were created, Vermont remains the only state in the country with a statute on the books granting same-sex couples the opportunity to gain a legal status akin to marriage. But that doesn't mean other states aren't thinking about it or arguing over it.

Proponents and opponents of marriage rights and benefits for gay and lesbian couples have been busy working for their causes in other states.

According to the most recent statistics from the state Department of Health, 2,479 civil unions have been certified in Vermont from July 2000 to June 2001.  Of those, 487 were Vermont couples.  There has been a single civil union dissolution approved by a court and an estimated 16 requests for dissolutions that are pending, according to information given to the commission Tuesday. The commission also heard that more women than men -- by a 2 to 1 margin -- have obtained civil unions.

Mary Bonauto, an attorney for the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders or GLAD, a legal rights organization based in Boston specializes in legal rights issues for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and people living with AIDS, told the Vermont Civil Union Review Commission on Tuesday that at least five other states are considering similar legislation while efforts are under way in other states and on the federal level to prevent such laws from ever being passed.

"I think the good news I wanted to convey to you is civil unions have not caused problems for people," she said.

She did update the commission on what's been happening around the country in response to the law.  Legislatures in Rhode Island, Hawaii, Washington, California and Connecticut have had bills proposed or held hearings on proposals modeled after Vermont's law.  Alternately, movements have been launched to either amend state constitutions or pass laws preventing civil unions or similar statutes in Nebraska, Massachusetts and Maine.



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