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Domestic Partnership News Archive
September 14 - September 20, 2001




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




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Thursday, September 20, 2001

Pennsylvania Court rules that same-sex cohabitation is not grounds to end alimony payments

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Pennsylvania State Superior Court has refused to let a former husband use his wife's living arrangement with another woman as grounds to end alimony payment. The Court ruled that someone can only "cohabitate" with a person of the opposite sex.

Judge Debra A. Todd, writing for the panel that included Judges Michael Eakin and Frank Musmanno, called Kripp vs. Kripp a "case of first impression" as a new issue for the court, but followed the same reasoning as recent opinions barring same-sex adoptions or marriages.

The dispute was between Robin and Anthony Kripp, who married in April 1982, had three children, and separated in March 1996. Anthony Kripp filed for divorce and Robin moved to Kentucky, where she now lives with another woman, Todd said in the Sept. 14 ruling.

Under the property settlement agreement, Anthony's $1,000-per-month alimony payments would end after two years if his ex-wife were to "cohabitate." After that time, he stopped payment, saying his obligation had ended because she was cohabiting with another woman.

The Superior Court said the lower court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of what the parties allegedly intended by using the term. The judges said the Common Pleas Court also ignored its earlier rulings that "in order to be found in 'cohabitation' one must at least be doing so 'with a person of the opposite sex'" who is not a family member.

While Robin Kripp also said there was no proof of a sexual relationship with another person, and the judges agreed, they said they did not have to consider the issue because of their ruling that same-sex partners could not be in "cohabitation."

"As a majority of this court has so held with regard to the question of same-sex adoption, as well as same-sex marriage ... we must defer to our Pennsylvania legislature the task of determining whether to expand the definition of cohabitation to include same-sex partners under the Divorce Code," the court wrote.

Montgomery County attorney Carolyn R. Mirabile, who represented Anthony Kripp, said she was "very surprised" by the ruling and was considering seeking an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

"We are concerned about this decision, because it will have a huge impact on Family Law court," Mirabile said today. "People who leave a marriage may have a relationship with someone of the same sex ... and that's not going to terminate alimony in Pennsylvania."

Charlotte conservatives criticize bishop's participation in gay and lesbian event

A story published today by the Charlotte Observer reports that some conservative Catholics say they're upset that a national Catholic group ministering to homosexuals and their families is meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Charlotte Bishop William Curlin, who will celebrate a mass for the group Saturday night, says the goal of the conference is not to endorse same-sex relations, but to support ministries that "show gays and lesbians that God loves them and that they will find their growth and his love in the church."

The eighth annual meeting of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries, which will continue through Sunday, is expected to draw priests, nuns, and lay leaders - including some gays and lesbians.

"The bishop has received in the neighborhood of 200 letters, warning him that this group is absolutely notorious for its dissent from church teaching on homosexuality and its promotion of gay marriage," says Paul Deer, a member of St. Thomas Aquinas parish and one of the letter-writers. "It's the only group I know of that is trying to get the church to sanction sin. Murderers don't say, `We should be allowed to murder.'"

Curlin says the letters didn't sway him. "I'm disappointed that people who call themselves Catholic have tried to distort the meaning of the meeting, like it's something anti-Christian," he says. "They want to make something ugly that could be a form of grace."

Workshops will focus on everything from how parents can listen to their homosexual children to how gays and lesbians can accept God's love and mercy.

Catholicism teaches that being a homosexual is not a sin. But the church does not approve of anyone engaging in homosexual sex - or any sex - outside of marriage.

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Conservative group urges California governor to veto domestic partner bill

A story published today by the Contra Costa Times reports that a pro-family conservative group funded by religious organizations has delivered 15,000 petitions to the governor of California requesting him to veto the measure that would give domestic partners many rights enjoyed by married spouses.

AB25 by Assemblywoman Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, is one of hundreds of bills sitting on the desk of Gov. Gray Davis, who must decide in the next four weeks whether to turn them into law or reject them.

The governor has already indicated he will sign AB25, said his spokeswoman Hilary McLean. In addition to getting petitions against the bill, Davis' office has received 10,000 communications in favor of the measure, she said.

The Sacramento-based nonprofit Campaign for California Families has run TV, radio and newspaper ads throughout the state against Migden's measure.

Randy Thomasson, the group's executive director, said AB25 is a direct challenge to Prop. 22, the 1998 voter-approved initiative that declared marriage to be protected as a sacred union between a man and a woman.

"This bill basically awards over a dozen marriage rights to people who aren't married. If you give marriage rights away like this, that is stealing the uniqueness and specialness of marriage," Thomasson said.

The bill passed the Legislature largely along party lines, with the Assembly approving it 42-31 and the Senate 23-11. Most Democrats backed it, and Republicans voted against it.

Under the legislation, some of the rights bestowed upon domestic partners registered with the state include:

- Making health care decisions for a seriously injured or ill partner.

- Being treated the same as a spouse in a statutory will.

- Inheriting property from a deceased partner.

- Using employee sick leave to attend a partner or a partner's child. 

The measure is long overdue, according to Alan Lofaso, Migden's chief of staff. 

"The lesbian and gay community has faced a lot of discrimination historically," Lofaso said. "On the anti-side, I think there is a vocal minority that continues to foster irrational bigotry against lesbians and gays. It's very unfortunate, but I think it's true."

"The governor is going to sign this bill, and we're very pleased," Lofaso added.

But Thomasson implored Davis to rethink the issue. He said: "This is the road to gay marriage, which is not what the voters wanted."

Friday, September 14, 2001

Indiana University board to consider domestic partner benefits

A story published today by the Indianapolis Star reports that Indiana University board of trustees is contemplating in adding domestic partner benefits for employees and students.

IU's proposal would extend health care benefits and other privileges given to the spouse of a married employee or student to same-sex or opposite-sex couples who live together outside marriage. Couples would have to "register" with IU that they are in an exclusive mutual relationship and perhaps provide some proof, such as joint checking accounts or mortgage statements.

The issue is on the trustees' agenda this Friday, but board President James Morris couldn't say whether it would come to a vote. Morris said it's difficult to change fringe benefits in midyear and that IU faces lots of financial challenges, but he recognized there are a number of people in committed relationships who are important to IU.

Trustee Stephen A. Backer, who says he is undecided on the issue, said IU needs to weigh whether Indiana residents want their tax dollars used for this benefit.

The IU Bloomington Faculty Council and the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Faculty Council unanimously approved the policy.

"The support always has been strong among the faculty," said Robert Eno, IU Bloomington Faculty Council president. "They feel this is an essential, competitive advantage that we need to regain. More fundamentally, they think it's the right thing to do."

In a written statement Wednesday, IU President Myles Brand said he supported faculty leaders' "commitment to this issue" but didn't explicitly say he backed the proposal.

The issue came to the forefront this year after a group of faculty and staff leaders put together a report detailing the costs of offering the benefits at IU and the prevalence of similar policies elsewhere.

Based on experiences at other Big Ten universities with the domestic partner benefits, IU's human resources department estimated 53 employees would request the health benefits. The extra annual cost in IU's contribution for medical and dental insurance was estimated at $195,000 or 0.32 percent of IU's $61 million health insurance costs.

To those who support the policy, that's a small cost to pay in return for the message it sends about supporting diversity and providing equal benefits in a tough competitive environment for top faculty.

"We're in no position to exclude anyone because of their birthright, religion, color of skin or whatever lifestyle choices they may elect," said Dan Dalton, dean of IU's Kelley School of Business.

"To me, this would send a signal to our various constituencies that folks are welcome," Dalton said.

Rev. Jerry Falwell says secular groups has set the tone for terror attacks

A story published today by the New York Times reports that Rev. Jerry Falwell said yesterday that the American Civil Liberties Union, with abortion providers, gay rights proponents and federal courts that had banned school prayer and legalized abortion, had so weakened the United States spiritually that the nation was left exposed to Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

Mr. Falwell, a Baptist minister who is chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., said that "the A.C.L.U.'s got to take a lot of blame for this." In the transcript, distributed by the liberal organization People for the American Way, Mr. Falwell described the A.C.L.U. as "throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools." Referring to the attacks, he said he would point a figurative finger at those "who have tried to secularize America" and say, "You helped this happen."

Asked about his remarks Mr. Falwell said he was making a theological statement about how various groups had so offended God that the attacks could occur. He said he did not intend to shift blame from the terrorists. "I sincerely believe that the collective efforts of many secularists during the past generation, resulting in the expulsion from our schools and from the public square, has left us vulnerable," he said.

He said he did not believe God "had anything to do with the tragedy," but that God had permitted it. "He lifted the curtain of protection," Mr. Falwell said, "and I believe that if America does not repent and return to a genuine faith and dependence on him, we may expect more tragedies, unfortunately."

Asked to comment on what Mr. Falwell said, a spokesman for the civil liberties union said, "We are not are not dignifying it with a response." In a statement, People for the American Way did not address Mr. Falwell's remarks, but said it grieved for the victims.

Bill Leonard, dean of Wake Forest Divinity School, said Mr. Falwell's remarks were "a mistaken effort to sound prophetic." "God created the world with terrible freedom, and part of that freedom," Mr. Leonard said, is the freedom humans have "to do terrible evil."



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