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Domestic Partnership News Archive
September 07 - September 13, 2001

 

 

 
 

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

 

 

 

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Thursday, September 13, 2001

California school board extends health plan to domestic partners

A story published today by the Orange County Register reports that unmarried partners of some employees at the Laguna Beach Unified School Board became eligible for domestic-partner benefits Wednesday.

The Laguna Beach Unified School District board members approved the change unanimously Tuesday which would allow unmarried couples and same-sex partners avail of the comprehensive health insurance benefit same as for those who are married.

"As far as I know, the Laguna Beach Unified School District is the only K-12 district that offers this plan," said school board member Kathleen Turner. "I don't know that any other community in Orange County has considered this."

The decision was well-received in Laguna Beach, where the city passed a similar law more than a decade ago.

"I wholeheartedly support it," said Teresa O'Hare, a leader of SchoolPower, which raises funds for city schools.

These benefits are retroactive to July 1 for principals and others in administrative capacities such as school psychologists who are not covered by the teachers union.

A complete plan that would include teachers and clerical employees would come after union approval.

To qualify for the plan, the domestic partner must be registered with the city and state and must meet special requirements.

"People have to live together, be in a monogamous relationship and clearly support each other," said Turner. "This is not limited to partners of the same sex."

"We are doing this because we believe this is the right thing to do," said Theresa Daem, superintendent of schools.

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

California Legislature oks domestic partner bill

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the California Assembly today gave final approval to AB 25, a comprehensive domestic partnership bill.  The bill now goes to Governor Gray Davis who has vowed to sign it.

The domestic partner bill substantially expands current domestic partnership law which took effect on January 1st, 2000.  Same-sex couples and senior opposite-sex couples that register as domestic partners with the Secretary of State currently only have the right to visit each other in the hospital. The original law also allows health benefits to be extended to the domestic partners of present and retired public employees.

When AB 25 takes effect on January 1st, 2002, registered domestic partners will be able to:
  relocate with a domestic partner without losing unemployment benefits
  utilize sick leave to care for a family member
  file disability benefits on behalf of an incapacitated partner
  provide partners with employer-based health coverage
  be exempt from state income tax the health benefits provided to domestic partners
  make medical decisions in the hospital
  act as a conservator
  file suit for wrongful death
  seek damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress
  administer a partner's estate
  use the statutory will form to bequeath property to a domestic partner
  adopt a partner's child using the stepparent adoption process
  continue health benefits for surviving partners of government employees and retirees

AB 25 also will change the present law  that to allow couples of the opposite sex to register as domestic partners if one or both of the partners are over the age of 62.   The current law only allows same-sex couples to register if both partners are at least 62 years old.
 

D.C. appropriations bill to prohibit city from implementing domestic partnership law

A story published today by the Washington Blade reports that the recently appointed chairperson of a House of Representatives panel with jurisdiction over the D.C. budget this week included language in the D.C. appropriations bill that prohibits the city from implementing its domestic partners law, despite requests by D.C. Councilmember David Catania (R-D.C.) to remove the language.

Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.), chairperson of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the District of Columbia, chose to include the domestic partners ban in the city's budget at the request of President Bush, who included the ban in his own budget proposal for the District, according to Chris Close, Knollenbergs press secretary.

Since 1992, Congress has added language each year to the citys appropriations bill prohibiting the city from implementing a domestic partners law approved by the D.C. Council and signed by the mayor that same year.

In recent years, at the request of conservative Republican House members, Congress also passed riders to the citys appropriations bill prohibiting D.C. from implementing its needle exchange program and overturning a D.C. voter initiative legalizing doctor-prescribed marijuana for medical purposes.  In the late 1990s, GOP House members attempted but were defeated in an effort to add an amendment to the citys budget bill that would have overturned a city law allowing gay couples to adopt children.

Close also told the Blade that Knollenberg plans to "cut in half" the number of social riders for the 2002 D.C. appropriations bill.  Close said he did not know whether other House members plan to introduce additional anti-gay or AIDS-related riders.   He said Knollenberg has urged House members to introduce all "controversial" riders during a hearing next week of the full appropriations committee.

The full House is tentatively scheduled to vote on the D.C. appropriations measure on Sept. 19.

D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who has coordinated efforts on Capitol Hill to defeat anti-gay amendments to D.C. appropriations bills, has urged gay activists to tap into their national networks to help persuade members of Congress to vote against such amendments.

Appeals Court upholds San Francisco ordinance on partner benefits

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a federal appeals court Tuesday upheld a San Francisco ordinance demanding airline carriers at San Francisco International Airport offer domestic partner benefits to their unmarried workers.

San Francisco's 1997 law, requires that contractors doing business with the city to offer the same benefits to unmarried employees' domestic partners as they do to married employees' spouses.

Last year, a federal judge sided largely against a suit brought by the airline industry that challenged San Francisco's law. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled the airlines must provide the same fare discounts, family leave and bereavement leave to domestic partners as to married couples working in San Francisco.

The judge excluded health and pension benefits, saying the federal government has jurisdiction in that area for the airline industry. Following Wilken's ruling, several airlines began offering the same benefits to domestic partners as they do to married couples. They include United Airlines, U.S. Air, Federal Express and American Airlines.

The carriers argued that the ordinance was an intrusion into their collective bargaining agreements with its unionized workers and that the city did not have authority to order what type of benefits should be included in the agreements.

But the appeals court said such a requirement could be imposed because it is "akin to a minimum labor standard or an antidiscrimination law."

Florida activists fight to repeal state law banning adoption by gay individuals

A story published today by the Sun-Sentinel reports that when a federal judge last week, upheld the 1977 law which bars gays from adopting children, gay rights activists have been keeping on fighting to get the law off the books, by way of either the courts or the Legislature. But the chances of the legislature repealing the measure are seen as close to zero.

Florida is the first and only state with a law specifically banning any homosexual from adopting. Utah and Mississippi do not allow same-sex couples to adopt but have no prohibition against adoptions by gay individuals.

"Florida has a such a dubious distinction of having the most heinous law in the country," said David Smith, spokesman for the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign. "We would do whatever we could to overturn it."

In a case brought by two gay men who wanted to adopt foster children already in their care, U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King upheld the law Aug. 30, accepting the state's argument that married heterosexuals provide a more stable home. It was the first time a federal judge ruled on such a law.

The plaintiffs plan to appeal. The other option would be to ask lawmakers to repeal the law. 

Republican Gov. Jeb Bush said he supports the judge's ruling but would not comment further. Republican state Rep. Jerry Melvin, who was a conservative Democrat when he voted for the gay adoption ban in 1977, said he would fight any attempt at repeal.

"It just shows the moral decay that our country's continuing to come under when people try to destroy any type of law that upholds the family structure of our nation," he said. "I'm just an old prude, I guess, but that's my standards."

Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, said gays will not let up the fight.

"It's our hope they'll make their voices heard this session and how ever many sessions it takes to repeal this law," she said. "The ruling dealt a severe blow for the legal challenge, but it's far from over. It's certainly not the last word. But the good news is it has drawn attention to a law that most people are shocked to discover even exists."

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Pennsylvania Supreme Court to address same-sex visitation rights

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a Pennsylvania woman is asking the state Supreme Court to protect her right to ask for visitation rights with a child she helped raise with her former lesbian partner.

The issue at Monday's hearing in state Supreme Court was a Pennsylvania Superior Court ruling, handed down last year, that the woman identified only as T.B. in court papers can continue to have contact with a girl she claims she raised from birth to age 3.

The child's biological mother, who was identified as L.R.M in court papers, appealed the decision, wanting to stop her former partner from having any contact with the child.

The court's ruling could set a precedence in Pennsylvania, allowing non-biological same-sex partners legal standing to maintain relationships with children after a couple ends their relationship, said T.B.'s attorney, Patricia M. Logue.  She is a senior counsel for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay rights group.

But L.R.M.'s attorney, Nicholas Banda of Johnstown, told the court that biological parents should have the right to make decisions in the best interest of their children.  That includes deciding who the children do or do not have in their lives, Banda said.

Justice Ralph J. Cappy asked Banda if he thought the current law fails to consider special relationships children can have with non-biological caregivers.  Cappy used an example of children living with their parents' same-sex partners for more than a decade.

In August 1997, a trial court allowed the child's biological mother to have sole custody of the girl, but granted T.B. visitation rights.

However, the biological mother requested and received a stay to the ruling until the appeal process ended.

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments this fall in the case of two Pennsylvania couples in same-sex relationships who want to adopt their partners' children. The Superior Court ruled against the adoptions in November 2000.

The Superior Court's decision was not based on sexual-orientation, but the fact that the state's Adoption Act only allows someone to jointly adopt a partner's children if the parent and partner are married. Currently, Pennsylvania does not recognize gay marriages.

California Senate passes domestic partner rights bill

A story published today by the San Jose Mercury News reports that a far-reaching bill that would grant unmarried domestic partners sick leave benefits, the right to sue for wrongful death and the ability to make medical decisions for each other passed the California Senate by a vote of 23-11on Monday and is set to become law.

``It's been a long time coming. This has been incremental but significant process, and we're very pleased that there are real tangible benefits this time around.'' said the bill's author Assemblywoman Carole Migden. The bill does not allow gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. But it does offer legal protections  to same-sex partners.

Migden said the legislation would give more heft to the state's existing domestic partnership registry, which she sponsored. To date, nearly 9,000 couples have registered as domestic partners, receiving state recognition and validation, but few legal rights.

Specifically, the law would allow domestic partners several rights, including: use of sick leave to care for partners and their children, the ability to make medical decisions when a partner is unable to make them, the right to adopt a partner's child and the ability to inherit property when a specific will is not present.

State Sen. William ``Pete'' Knight, who backed the ``Defense of Marriage'' proposition, blasted the bill as an attempt to recognize gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered couples as ``normal'' and put them on equal footing with married couples.

``It's a bad bill because it undermines Proposition 22,'' said Knight, a Palmdale Republican. ``The people of California have indicated that they think marriage should stay between a man and a woman. Gay people, including bisexual, transsexual and transgender people, are moving in the hopes of being accepted in the eyes of society as normal families.''

Gov. Gray Davis has vowed to sign AB 25, but first the bill will return to the Assembly for a simple up or down vote. The law also applies to unmarried heterosexual couples over age 62 if they meet specific provisions under the federal Social Security Act.

American couples immigrating to Canada

A story published today by the Toronto Sun reports that U.S. immigration officials are saying that number of American couples are flooding into Canada through Buffalo because they can be legally recognized as families.

Immigration officers in Buffalo said more same-sex lovers than common-law couples are applying to come to Canada. More than 200 same-sex couples are granted landed immigrant status at the Canadian visa office in Buffalo annually, compared with 30 common-law couples, documents show.

"We see a steady stream of same-sex applications," one immigration official in Buffalo said perhaps reflecting "the change in societal norms."

Visa officers in Buffalo said most of the same-sex couples are granted status because the applicants have good jobs, are well educated and their cases are well documented. 

Immigration spokesman Susan Scarlett said her officials do not keep track of clients who are in same-sex or common-law relationships.

"Those applying are highly skilled applicants," Scarlett said. "These people are applying on their own merits."

Last June, a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge ruled homosexual couples have the right to adopt children. Same-sex adoptions are also allowed in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.

OPM urged to include domestic partners in new employee benefits program

A story published today by the Washington Post reports that at the Office of Personnel Management, the government's newest employee benefit is called "Long Term Care Insurance for the Federal Family." By OPM's count, the federal family could include up to 20 million people.

But gay rights advocates, Federal GLOBE and the Human Rights Campaign, fear that one part of the federal family will be left out of the program: domestic partners.

The two groups, in a letter to OPM Director Kay Coles James, said OPM's program proposal on the agency Internet site has provided contradictory statements on whether domestic partners will be included under the definition of an eligible relative.

Asked if OPM had made a decision, James said last week that the issue had not reached her desk. "I think it is premature to talk about that," she said.

Last year, Congress authorized OPM to establish a long-term care benefit for federal employees and retirees. OPM plans to award a contract to one or more insurance companies next month and to roll out the program in October 2002. Congress also gave OPM the leeway to issue regulations to grant eligibility to others who might be considered a part of the federal family.

According to OPM's Web site, the agency is thinking of expanding the long-term care program to other categories, such as: Parents, parents-in-law and stepparents of retirees; unmarried former spouses of employees; adult foster children of employees and retirees; and unmarried brothers and sisters of employees and retirees.

But the OPM official said the agency has not made any judgments about what categories -- from grandparents to domestic partners -- might be deemed eligible for the insurance. The agency's goal, the official said, is to offer an attractive benefit program to employees while striking "the best balance" on how many others would be covered.

Sorting out who gets declared eligible for the program could prove politically sensitive for James, who will likely consult with the White House before making her decision.

Gay couples better adjusted to the city life

A story published today by the Los Angeles Times reports that  according to the 2000 Census information for Southern California, same-sex male couples are overwhelmingly city folk, while lesbian partners are more apt to settle in suburbs or foothill towns.

The census counted about 39,000 gay cohabiting couples in Southern California, a small fraction of the region's gay population. The census provides a category for those in same-sex partner households, but fails to capture gay people not in live-in relationships because it does not ask about sexual orientation. The map of Southern California's same-sex couples largely mirrors those of metropolitan areas nationwide where male couples are consistently more urban and more concentrated.

"The places that register as highly male are really highly male," said Gary Gates, a research associate at the Urban Institute who specializes in the demography of the gay and lesbian population. "The women are more diffuse and more rural."

The same-sex couples who cohabit in the Southland are 56% male and 44% female, but in parts of Hollywood, Laguna Beach, Long Beach and Palm Springs, male partners outnumber lesbian pairs by as much as 10 to one.

Lesbian partners, by contrast, are spread far more thinly in those hot spots, as well as in their sole urban enclave, Long Beach's Belmont Heights.

In 1990, one in five lesbian couples had children in their households, and one in 20 male couples did. Though comparable census 2000 data are not yet available, the split may have deepened during the 1990s--the so-called gay-by boom decade--in which having children became far more common for gay couples, especially women.

That may explain why pockets of lesbian partners turn up in areas of Mission Viejo and the San Fernando Valley that have little corresponding population of male couples.

"Most of the gay males I know with children have them from heterosexual marriage, and mostly on the weekends," said Steven McGrew, co-chairman of the Rainbow Council, an Inland Empire gay advocacy group. "Lesbians have younger children, and they're searching for good schools."

To some, the census numbers validate conventional wisdom about the female drive to nest and the male drive to rove.

"In some ways, the cultural differences between men and women are intensified when the relationships are male-male, female-female," McGrew said. "Gay male social life revolves around bars and discos. Lesbians don't need to be centralized around those venues."

The number of same-sex partners leaped 314%, from fewer than 150,000 in 1990 to more than 600,000 in 2000. The higher totals may reflect a concerted effort by gay community groups to persuade members to be counted.

Monday, September 10, 2001

CU Regents' decision on domestic partner benefits stirs protest

A story  published today by the Colorado Daily reports that in the wake of last week's CU-Regents' decision to deny domestic partner benefits to CU faculty and staff, members and supporters of the campus gay and lesbian community are preparing to fight back.

"I wouldn't even call the Regents' action a decision," said Joanne Arnold, a former associate dean of CU's School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a gay rights activist. "I would call it a non-decision. Regent Ediger's rationale is just silliness. Her action or lack there of also shows a lack of courage and leadership."

"We're going to see what happens with next year's Regent election," said Arnold. "We're already looking for effective, informed, and enlightened people to fill Ediger's seat next year. We're also targeting Regent Robb's seat for the 2002 election."

"Our goal is to find people who know the difference between church and state," Arnold added.

Senator Ron Tupa (R-Boulder) has called Ediger's unwillingness to vote shameful. "I'm more than upset and I want everyone to know that," Tupa said.

"CU is supposed to be a premier institution and decisions like this tarnish our reputation."

"Many of us fully expected this to pass," Tupa said. "We wait year after year for the Board of Regents to do the right thing and I think our patience has run out. We're sending a really bad message by not providing healthcare for all employees, as if gays and lesbians are second class citizens," he said.

Tupa said he will begin speaking with individual board members as early as next week about revisiting the issue.

"It's my understanding that they can revisit this issue at any time -- we don't need to wait until next year. I think  action needs to be taken sooner rather than later," he said.

Sunday, September 9, 2001

Chicago couple not covered by domestic partners benefit program

A story published today by About.com reports that a federal appellate court in Chicago ruled yesterday that an unmarried, opposite-sex couple cannot claim constitutional violations by their exclusion from a Domestic Partnership Benefit Program applying to certain same-sex couples employed by the Chicago Board of Education.

The ruling in Irizarry v. Chicago Board of Education allows the Board to continue to grant qualifying same-sex couples certain benefits traditionally allowed only married couples, while denying the same benefits to unmarried couples of the opposite sex who would otherwise qualify but for the fact they are not of the same sex, i.e., so-called cohabitating couples.

Ms. Irizarry, an employee of the Chicago public schools, hoped to force the district to extend its Domestic Partnership Benefit Program to her long-time cohabitant, the father of her children. They had, of course, never married. Her partner would have qualified under the program but for the fact that they were not of the same sex.

The question for the court was whether this disparate treatment of couples on the basis of the sexes of cohabiting partners was rational. Judge Posner pondered several social and economic ramifications of the policy and considered various studies of familial relationships from a social policy perspective. He found that Lambda was more interested in undermining marriage than in supporting heterosexual cohabitation, for example.

Judge Posner envisioned one argument against the rationality of the program that had not even been presented by the plaintiff:

"The least rational feature of the board's policy, though not emphasized by the plaintiff, is that although domestic-partner benefits are confined to persons of the same sex, the partners need not be homosexual. They could be roommates who have lived together for a year and own some property jointly and for want of relatives are each other's "sole domestic partner," and if so they would be entitled to domestic-partner benefits under the board of education's policy. To distinguish between roommates of the same and of different sexes, as the policy implicitly does, cannot be justified on the ground that the latter but not the former could marry each other!"

"True, it is no longer widely popular to try to pressure homosexuals to marry persons of the opposite sex. But so far as heterosexuals are concerned, the evidence that on average married couples live longer, are healthier, earn more, have lower rates of substance abuse and mental illness, are less likely to commit suicide, and report higher levels of happiness--that marriage civilizes young males, confers economies of scale and of joint consumption, minimizes sexually transmitted disease, and provides a stable and nourishing framework for child rearing ... refutes any claim that policies designed to promote marriage are irrational. The Chicago Board of Education cannot be faulted, therefore, for not wishing to encourage heterosexual cohabitation; and, though we need not decide the point, the refusal to extend domestic-partner benefits to heterosexual cohabitators could be justified on the basis of the policy favoring marriage for heterosexuals quite apart from the reasons for wanting to extend the spousal fringe benefits to homosexual couples."

Saturday, September 8, 2001

Domestic partner not legally entitled visitation rights in hospital

A story published today by the Spokesman-Review reports that Idaho residents Brian Millspaugh and Russ Powell sought a fresh start six months ago in their Spokane Valley dream house. But an accident off an interstate has changed all of their dreams. Powell, now in a coma was struck by a car and is in the intensive care unit at Kootenai Medical Center, and Millspaugh is frustrated that he doesn't have a say in the care of the man he considers his soul mate.

"I basically have no rights whatsoever with him," Millspaugh said.

He's been allowed access to visit his partner, but he gets limited information from the hospital staff.

The gay couple have been together for a year and had registered as domestic partners when they lived in Seattle. Neither Idaho nor Washington state law recognizes them as a married couple.

There had been tensions between Millspaugh and his partner's parents, said Powell's mother, Audrey Powell.

"Brian and I don't get along.  He's turned Russ against his family,"   she said.  "He (Russ Powell) had a wife and two little children and he chose to walk off and join this life."

Powell said she considered not giving Millspaugh access to her injured son, in part because she doesn't understand their lifestyle, but she wanted  what was best for his health care.

"My son does care for him," Audrey Powell said. "My concern is with my son."

Russ Powell had given his parents legal authority over his medical care when he donated a kidney to his sister six years ago, she said.

Many gay couples draft legal documents to ensure a partner gets full control should one become disabled.

"I give advice to a lot of gay and lesbian couples," said Spokane attorney Richard Sayre. "The one thing I tell them over and over is they must have their legal documents  in place."

 

 

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