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Domestic Partnership News Archive
October 21 - October 28, 2001




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




<<   October 2001  >>

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Sunday, October 28, 2001

British adoption agency says unmarried couples should have the right to adopt jointly

A story published today by the Independent (U.K.) reports that the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering is advocating for couples who live together in stable relationships to be given the same rights to adopt children jointly as married couples have.

The move, which would also help gay partners become joint parents, has so far been rejected by the Government because of fears of a public backlash.

Currently, only one person from a cohabiting couple is legally allowed to adopt, even though social workers have to be convinced that both partners are in a stable, long-term union before handing over a child.

Experts say the rule deters unmarried couples from coming forward to adopt and runs counter to reality when 40 percent of children are born outside wedlock and nearly three million couples cohabit. Despite this, 95 percent of adopters are married couples. The rest are single people, including those who may have a long-term partner.

Parliament members are expected to voice support for a change in the law on Monday when the Government's Adoption and Children Bill receives its second reading.

Yesterday, the adoption agencies said public opinion was behind the move. A poll of 2,000 adults showed that 68 percent wanted unmarried couples in stable relationships to be allowed to adopt jointly, and 36 percent were strongly in favor.

Felicity Collier, the BAAF's chief executive, said a change in the law would increase the number of families able to offer permanent homes for the thousands of children in care.

"This outdated law denies many vulnerable children the security of having two legal parents." said Collier.

The Labour MP David Hinchliffe, chairman of the health select committee and a former senior social worker involved in adoption, said a significant number of MPs would support the move.

"Whether we are talking about unmarried heterosexual couples or gay couples, what should predominate in any decision is the welfare of the individual child."

Saturday, October 27, 2001

California Appeals Court strikes gay adoption procedure ruling

A story published today by the Los Angeles Times reports that a state appeals court in San Diego, California, struck down an administrative procedure commonly used by gays to adopt the children of their partners.

Gay rights activists and the American Civil Liberties Union immediately denounced the decision as imperiling the financial and emotional well-being of thousands of children who have been adopted this way in California. An appeal is planned.

In its decision in a case involving a dispute between two lesbians who had been a couple, the 4th District Court of Appeal said the procedure used for more than a decade to allow "second-parent" adoptions in same-sex families was illegal. But the court, in a 2-1 decision, also noted that the state's new Domestic Partners Law provides a method for such adoptions.

"It's outrageous," said Pat Logue, counsel for the Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund.  "This decision destabilizes the lives of thousands of children, exactly the opposite of what adoption is meant to do."

The case involved a lesbian couple, identified only as Sharon and Annette, who broke up while Annette was adopting Sharon's son, now 2. The boy was conceived with sperm from an anonymous donor.

Sharon sued to block Annette's attempt to adopt, claiming that the procedure was illegal, although Annette had adopted Sharon's first child,Zachary, now 5.

A trial court sided with Annette and gave her visitation privileges with the boy, Joshua.   The appeals court reversed that decision, noting that the Legislature had twice in recent years declined to write into law the "second-parent" adoption method used by Sharon and Annette.

As a legal issue, the case involved a dispute about whether Sharon, as the biological mother, could consent to the adoption while retaining her parental rights. Adoption law generally requires the mother to relinquish parental rights when consenting to adoption.

The appeals court ruled that the county Department of Social Services did not have the authority to approve such adoptions before the Domestic Partners Law was enacted. It rejected a request by Annette's attorneys for a "liberal" interpretation of adoption laws.

"The role of the courts," said the decision, "is to interpret and apply the existing statutes in accordance with the Legislature's expressed intention, not to rewrite the statutes or question the Legislature's wisdom."

Friday, October 26, 2001

Domestic partners seek birth certificate for their adopted child

A story release today by the Associated Press reports that a lesbian couple from Vermont is suing the state of Mississippi over health officials' alleged refusal to issue a birth certificate to the son they adopted four years ago.

Cheri Goldstein and Holly Perdue of Worcester, Vt., filed suit Thursday in Hinds County Chancery Court. The two are asking the judge to order the state to issue the birth certificate showing them as the boy's adoptive parents.

Officials are holding up the birth certificate because they noticed on documents that both adoptive parents are female, said Perdue, 44, on Thursday. The couple has eight adopted children.

''If my name was Ira or Robin or a non-gender specific name, would they have known?'' she asked. She added that the couple wouldn't adopt from Mississippi or other states that bar same-gender adoptions again.

''When you want to become an adoptive parent, one of the things you do is put that out to different adoption agencies in the different states,'' said Hector Vargas, regional director of Lambda's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta.

Vargas said an adoption agency in Mississippi contacted the couple in 1997 when the child was born to a mother who wished to give him up for adoption. The Washington District Probate Court in Vermont approved the adoption in April 2000.

''The state of Vermont Social Services has sought out both Cheri and Holly as a family that can care for special needs adults and children. They have been able to provide a caring, loving home and atmosphere for their family,'' Vargas said.

Goldstein and Perdue claim that since the adoption, the state of Mississippi
has refused to issue an amended birth certificate for the boy, now 4 years old.

They claim the state is obligated by law to issue the document.

Jody Renaldo, executive director of Equality Mississippi, a gay alliance organization in Jackson, said Mississippi law requires the state to honor valid, out of state adoptions. Renaldo said Mississippi bans same-sex adoptions but it does not apply to out of state adoptions.

'This couple stepped forward to love this child and give him a home,'' Renaldo said.   ''It's shameful that our state is singling this child our for different treatment simply because of his parents' sexual orientation.''

German state approves same-sex partnership

A story published today by PlanetOut.com reports that conservative German state of Bavaria has joined the rest of the nation in giving same-sex partners similar rights as married couples.

The Bavarian state assembly approved the measure on Thursday that will take effect on Nov. 1.

Last July Bavaria unsuccessfully tried to challenge the constitutionality of the country's new same-sex partnership law, which went into effect throughout the rest of Germany on Aug. 1.

Under the new law, lesbians and gays who register their relationships have the same inheritance rights as heterosexuals, may share a common surname, and their foreign partners will be allowed to join them in Germany.

But the law does not accord lesbian and gay couples the tax advantages granted to heterosexual married pairs or the right to adopt children.

Fremont city council approves police department's domestic benefit plan

A story published today by the Argus reports that Fremont's city council approved a resolution Tuesday night that would extend to police officers domestic partner health coverage available through the state's Public Employees' Retirement System.

"It just opens another avenue of recruitment with candidates," Police Chief Craig Steckler said.  "It's just like salaries and other type of benefits to stay as competitive as possible."

The benefits will not cost the city anything, said Sgt. Allen Holm, a contract negotiator for the police officers association.  Domestic health coverage will be paid out of an existing benefits fund for the association, he said.

"It doesn't change the money allocation because the money is already there," Holm said.

The state has been offering domestic partner benefits for state employees and public agencies for two or three years, said Lynn Macy, assistant city manager.  The city added health coverage for domestic partners into the association's contract to reflect the change in state law, Holm said.

Two other city employee unions - the Teamsters and the Fremont Association of City Employees - also offer domestic partner health benefits, Macy said.

The Teamsters provides the benefits through its trust fund, and the city employee association offers its health plan through the state program, she said.

Macy said the city will extend the domestic partner benefits to any union that applies for them.

Extending health coverage to domestic partners would benefit the police department, said Fremont Police Sgt. Mark Devine, police association vice president.

"We're like a big family here and it helps to include all family members," he said.

Kansas minister wants domestic partner benefits debated

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a Wichita minister has demanded a public debate on domestic partner benefits at the Sedgwick County Commissioners meeting Wednesday.

The committee voted earlier to revoke those benefits. County Manager William Buchanan had offered health plans for domestic partners of county employees to maintain and recruit employees.

The Rev. Shelley Hamilton called the commissioners' decision biased, demanding a public forum to debate the issue.

According to one commissioner, if county employees want the issue reopened, they will have to go through the county Benefits Committee.

County Commissioner Tom Winters said it was an in-house issue, and he would be reluctant to reconsider it unless a significant number of the 2,700 county employees requested it.

The item was overturned after the commission received numerous phone calls and e-mails from constituents saying the policy gives official sanction to sinful unions.

Thursday, October 25, 2001

California expert says state bill AB1338 does not affect Calif. Defense Marriage Act

A story published today by the Sacramento Bee reports that legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, a law professor at the University of Southern California, told California’s Assembly Judiciary Committee that gay and lesbian couples could form state-sanctioned civil unions without the couple or the state violating the voter-approved initiative defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

"(Proposition 22) doesn't at all affect something called civil unions," said Chemerinsky. "So long as the word marriage is not used, same-sex civil unions do not violate the Knight Act."

The panel held a special post-session hearing to take testimony on AB 1338 by Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood, a bill that would let gay and lesbian couples in California form Vermont-style civil unions, giving them the same rights as married couples.

The hearing came just days after Gov. Gray Davis signed AB 25 to expand the rights available to same-sex couples who register under the state's domestic partners law.

Koretz conceded it might take up to six years for his bill to become law. "This is a concept that is new to the general public and the Legislature," he said.

In March 2000, voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 22, the California Defense of Marriage Act, written by Sen. Pete Knight, R-Palmdale. The 14-word act reads: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Koretz's bill, said Knight, "is a direct affront to Proposition 22. It (is an attempt) to skirt the will of the people."

"It creates marriage under the name civil union, and by doing that, you do away with marriage as (we) know it," said Benjamin Lopez, a legislative analyst for the Traditional Values Coalition.

Lopez presented figures suggesting that gays are promiscuous, but others countered that civil unions would promote stability.

Committee Chairman Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, called the campaign's tacit support for some gay rights and present opposition to civil unions disingenuous.

Steinberg was the only committee member present at Wednesday's hearing. He said absent members may benefit from the session transcript and videotape.

Monday, October 22, 2001

Pro-family group says survivor benefits are intended for families

A story released today by the CNSNews.com reports that according to a pro-family watchdog group, homosexual activists are seeking to exploit the September 11 terrorist attacks to gain legal acceptance for their sexual partnerships.

Robert Knight of the Culture and Family Institute (CFI) of Concerned Women for America monitors pro-homosexual political activities. He says the movement's lobbyists are busy working behind the scenes while Americans attempt to rebuild their lives.

"The nation's leaders have called for a cease-fire on the hot-button social issues, and yet the left has not gotten the message," Knight said. "Instead, they are using the nation's crisis as a cover to continue to promote their agenda."

As evidence, he noted comments like those made by the Communications Director for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest homosexual political lobby.

Knight says family benefits were originally created to provide for a stay-at-home parent caring for children, not for homosexual sex partners who usually both work.

"They are trying to hijack the moral capital of marriage and apply it to their own relationships," he said. "This is creating counterfeit marriage, by another name."

Three states - New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia - split more than $15 million from the Justice Department's Office of Victims of Crime (DOJ-OVC). The money is awarded to crime victims or their survivors according to the standards set by each state.

New York will received $13,040,200 of the $15 million package which will be distributed to victims and survivors. An executive order signed by Governor George Pataki under the state's disaster emergency law October 10 modifies state law regarding distribution of benefits to "domestic partners" and other non-family members by the board.

"A person dependent on a victim who dies as the direct result of a crime shall be eligible to receive awards for lost earnings or support if at least fifty percent of such person's support was provided by such victim," the order states.

Previously, the law had required that a non-family survivor establish that they depended on the victim for 75 percent of their support. That requirement had disqualified most homosexual "domestic partners" from receiving awards in the past. In the order, Pataki said the provision had "produced unjust results."

Knight says well-meaning people, who just want to see those suffering from a loss receive help, may not recognize the homosexual political agenda at work in the middle of a tragedy.

"The danger here is that they will use this as a precedent and try to institutionalize domestic partner benefits on the federal level" he said. "It is a way that homosexuals and their allies are working to undermine the entire concept of marriage and family."

But conservative House members believe any distribution of money from the DOJ-OVC program to "domestic partners" would already be banned by federal law. The Defense of Marriage Act, which took effect in 1997, defines marriage as "a union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." It also defines a "spouse" as "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife."

"They can't do it," one Republican congressional staff member who had researched the issue said of giving benefits to "domestic partners" of homosexuals. "It's against the law."

Some charities, which are not covered by that law, are already giving money to the "domestic partners" of homosexuals killed in the terrorist attacks. In a letter to the Human Rights Campaign, John A. Clizbe, vice president for disaster services of the American Red Cross, writes that the organization is using a "broad and inclusive definition of family" to determine who is eligible for survivor's benefits.

"In doing so, we recognize traditional married families, as well as the committed relationships and domestic partnerships of many couples who are living together," Clizbe's letter continues. "Accordingly, these broadly defined families who have been living together are eligible for American Red Cross assistance."

United Way of America spokeswoman Ann Andrews said the relief fund for victims is being managed by the United Way of New York City. She was not aware of any specific policy regarding "domestic partners," but described an open door for those seeking assistance.

"I know there is a policy that basically includes everybody," she said. "Whoever needs help gets it."



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