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Domestic Partnership News Archive
September 21 - September 28, 2001




This page contains news for the period September 21, 2001 through September 28, 2001.




<<   September 2001  >>

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Friday, September 28, 2001

Kansas’ Sedgwick county commissioner approves partner benefits to county employees

A story published today by the Wichita Eagle reports that Kansas’ Sedgwick county has become the first local government in the state to offer health benefits for unmarried domestic partners of employees.

County employees were informed of their option to insure unmarried partners -- heterosexual or homosexual -- in a packet outlining benefits changes for the open enrollment period beginning Oct. 1.

"We're in a competitive employment market," said County Manager William Buchanan who approve the change. "We need to recruit and retain the best employees possible. I think this policy will help us do that."

He also added that the state Congress adopted a similar policy for its employees this week.

Sedgwick County's new policy is likely to encounter strong opposition from religious groups, said Rev. Pat Bullock, director of the Heart of Kansas Southern Baptist Association, which includes 54 churches in Sedgwick County.

"I'm absolutely, dogmatically, unapologetically opposed to it," Bullock said. "I can assure you our churches will oppose it.''

He said offering domestic partnership benefits sanctions homosexuality and accepts it as normal, weakening the traditional family and, with it, the country.

"I do not like my tax money to be promoting something that will destroy my nation," he said.

However, Scott Curry, a lawyer and local gay-rights activist, hailed Buchanan's decision.

"It's something happening around most of the country," he said. "All it's doing is recognizing reality, which is always a good thing for public officials to do."

"You've got to applaud the people who, recognizing that what they're doing is going to make some people very unhappy, still do the right thing," he said.

Although it was not a voting issue for them, commissioners were divided on the change.

Commissioners Carolyn McGinn and Ben Sciortino both said they opposed the change because they think that the county's health benefits should be reserved for employees and their immediate families only.

"It's just too liberal for me," Sciortino said.

However, both commissioners said it was Buchanan's decision to make and deferred to his judgment.

Commissioner Tom Winters said the board has directed Buchanan to do what he needs to do to hire the best employees possible. He said he supports the manager's decision and is not expecting widespread outrage over it.

"I don't think that there are a lot of haters in this community," he said.

Finnish lawmakers OKs law allowing same-sex registration

A story published today by the Helsingin Sanomat (Finland) reports that the Finnish Parliament passed a controversial bill allowing the registration of same-sex couples.

The debate over the measure had been intense and at times quite emotional as conservative legislators vehemently opposed the measure while supporters of the bill defended their position. When the final voting was taken Friday afternoon, 99 members of the parliament supported the measure while 84 voted against it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Houston city council adds same-sex ban in November ballot

A story published today by the Houston Chronicle reports that the Houston city council Wednesday placed a referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot to ban same-sex benefits.

If voters approve it, the referendum would amend the city charter to explicitly prohibit the city from providing medical and other benefits to same-sex partners of city employees. Currently, the city does not offer such benefits but it has considered changing that policy.

The proposed charter amendment also would prevent the city from forcing its contractors to provide same-sex benefits. And it would prohibit the city from hiring, promoting or contracting based on sexual orientation -- language intended to ban affirmative action benefitting gays.

In a 9-5 vote, the council agreed to place the measure on the ballot after City Secretary Anna Russell determined that petitioner Dave Wilson, a conservative activist, had enough signatures to force a vote.

But City Councilwoman Annise Parker, the city's only openly gay elected official, said that Russell missed errors, including apparent forgery, on 1,101 signatures.

In addition, some petitions were filled out improperly or included signatures of people who died before 2001 or did not live inside the Houston city limits, Parker said.

The council rejected Parker's plea to keep the referendum off the ballot after City Attorney Anthony Hall and Mayor Lee Brown said the city could not legally block it.

Mayor Brown, however, said that he intends to campaign against the referendum and that he hopes the district attorney will investigate any evidence of fraud.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said that if a complaint is filed, his office will look into it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Domestic partners benefits in D.C.approved by House

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the House agreed Tuesday to allow the District of Columbia to use local funds for a program extending a city employee health care plan to unmarried domestic partners.

By a 226-194 vote the House defeated an amendment to a D.C. spending bill that would have continued the current ban on using both federal and local funds for domestic partnership benefits.

Washington's city council in 1992 passed a law allowing domestic partners - defined broadly to include siblings and others in close relationships as well as gays - to purchase health insurance at their own expense. However, the law has never been implemented because of congressional bans on the use of any money, federal or local, to implement it.

Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., reintroduced it as an amendment, saying that lifting the ban would "place heterosexual and homosexual cohabiting relationships on an equal footing with traditional marriage."

"We are walking away from the traditions and virtues that we have respected and honored since our country was founded," said Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

But proponents of the domestic partnership program argued that since the 1992 D.C. law 113 cities have implemented similar programs and that one-third of Fortune 500 companies include domestic partners in their health care plans.

"I was deeply shocked that the Republican leadership had chosen to use this bill to make an assault on millions of gay and lesbian Americans in general and on those who live in the District of Columbia in particular." said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.

"No citizen should be denied the right to care for an ailing partner," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The Senate version of the bill, still waiting Senate Appropriations Committee action, does not include the ban on local funding for the partnership program.

The D.C. spending bill has frequently been a battleground between congressional liberals and conservatives over such issues as abortion and needle exchange programs for drug users. The House bill this year includes restrictions on use of federal or local funds for most abortions, bars the use of funds to legalize marijuana or carry out needle exchanges, and prohibits funds to be used for lawsuits against Congress over D.C. voter representation.

Corning company extends benefits to employees' same-sex partner

A story release today by the Associated Press reports that Corning Inc. announced today that starting next year, their company will extend benefits to employees' same-sex domestic partners. Corning will be among 30 percent of Fortune 500 companies offering domestic-partner benefits, company diversity officer Pam Schneider said. She hopes that the change will help the company's recruitment efforts.

Saturday, September 22, 2001

New poll shows more Americans see cohabitation as morally acceptable

A story released today by the Religious News Service reports that according to a poll conducted by Barna poll, a California based research firm, almost one-half of American adults said cohabiting and having sexual fantasies are morally acceptable behaviors.

Fifty-eight percent of Americans said cohabitation was morally acceptable and an equal percentage said having sexual fantasies was morally understandable.

Researchers also found that almost three-fourths of American adults are concerned about the moral condition of the nation. About one-fourth of Americans said their moral decisions are primarily based on religious principles and biblical teaching while 44 percent said their moral choices were based on a desire to do what brings them the most satisfying or pleasing results.

"Religious leaders and people committed to biblical standards of living will be discouraged to realize that matters are highly likely to get worse in years to come," said George Barna, president of the Ventura, Calif.-based research firm in a statement.

Massachusetts’ Senate committee approves domestic partner bill

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that Boston’s gay, lesbian and unmarried state workers would be able to get health insurance for their domestic partners under a bill approved by a key state Senate committee Friday.

The bill, approved by the Senate Ways and Means Committee, would also let cities and towns decide to offer domestic partner benefits as a local option.

A domestic partner is defined by the bill as someone of the same or opposite sex who shares financial responsibilities and a home with a state employee.

They must also say that they are in a relationship of ''mutual support, care and commitment'' and plan to live together indefinitely.

The full Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill Tuesday. It is also expected to vote on bills that would allow Cambridge and Brookline to extend domestic partner benefits to their employees.

Opponents of domestic partner benefits say they places homosexual relationships on the same level as heterosexual marriages.

In 1998, the Legislature passed a bill allowing Boston to provide the benefits known as a ''home rule petition'' but the bill was vetoed by former Gov. Paul Cellucci.

Friday, September 21, 2001

New Orleans city council approves domestic partner benefits

A story published today by GLBT reports that the New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to approve a city ordinance that would grant health benefits to the domestic partners of gay city employees.

The vote makes New Orleans one of only a handful of cities across the South that offer domestic partner benefits to municipal employees.

"I felt confident that this city would support the mayor's call for permanently recognizing diversity in New Orleans, whatever hat diversity is," said Marlin Gusman, the City Council member who sponsored the ordinance. "It's just the right thing to do."

"New Orleans sets the standard for the state, and for the whole South really, in officially recognizing same-sex couples,"said Melinda Shelton, Louisiana Lesbian & Gay Political Action Caucus (LAGPAC) executive director.

"They did it with domestic partner registration in 1993, and they did it again today."

Besides medical benefits, the ordinance will provide bereavement rights and family leave policies as well as access to city recreational facilities for municipal employees' domestic partners, Gusman said.

To be eligible for the benefits, city employees would sign-up with the New Orleans Domestic Partnership Registry, which was created in 1993.

The registry defines domestic partners as two people at least 18 years of age, not blood related and not married who have lived together for at least 6 months, are jointly obligated for providing each other's living necessities and have a commitment "intended to be lifelong."

The cost of offering domestic partner benefits to city employees was not available before the vote Thursday.

Domestic partner benefit for D.C. approved by House Committee

A story published today by the Washington Times reports that the House Appropriations Committee yesterday approved an amendment to the D.C. budget that would allow the city government to provide health care benefits to domestic partners. 
The 2002 budget bill, however, would continue to prohibit the use of federal funds for the initiative, but would allow the District to use its own money.
The committee agreed to the amendment, introduced by Rep. Jim Kolbe (AZ-Rep.), and Rep. James P. Moran (VA-Dem.), as part of the city's $7.5 billion spending package it approved yesterday.

The D.C. Council in 1992 approved the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act, which expanded health benefits to unmarried couples and single adult relatives who live together and work for the city. D.C. government workers were required to pay the total cost for insuring the domestic partner. Through the years, Congress has prevented its implementation. 

Yesterday, Mr. Moran listed several major cities that provide such benefits, such as Los Angeles, Denver and Seattle. He said the partnership law would benefit not just homosexual couples. Two widows living together and mothers and grandmothers living together also would be eligible, he said.

"I don't know why we wouldn't let D.C. use its own local funds," Mr. Moran said.

Rev. Jerry Falwell recants comments blaming secular groups on attacks

A story released today by ABC News reports that the Rev. Jerry Falwell is taking back comments he made after last week's terrorist attacks, saying he shouldn't have blamed gays, civil libertarians and others for making America a target.

As the nation was still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks, Falwell appeared on the Christian television program The 700 Club. He and the show's host, Pat Robertson, were expressing their sorrow over the death and destruction when Falwell broke into a speech about who should take some of the responsibility for the attacks.

He laid blame at the feet of homosexuals, abortion-rights supporters and the American Civil Liberties Union, saying their beliefs prompted God to allow terrorists to attack America.

On Thursday on Good Morning America, Falwell said he "misspoke" when he said gays, lesbians and the ACLU made the attacks happen.

"I do not believe they endanger America. I misspoke totally and entirely," Falwell told ABCNEWS' Diane Sawyer.

When shown a replay of his 700 Club remarks and the ad accusing him of intolerance, Falwell said, "In that particular interview you just showed, I did do that."

He went on, saying, "I did not intend to do what obviously I did do. I am sorry."

On the 700 Club, Robertson said he totally concurred when Falwell finished his controversial comments. Since then, Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network released a statement calling Falwell's remarks "severe and harsh in tone and, frankly, not fully understood" by Robertson at the time.



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