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Domestic Partnership News Archive
November 07 - November 13, 2001

 

 

 
 

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

 

 

 

<<   November 2001  >>

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Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Salvation Army back tracks on domestic partner benefits issue

A story released today by the U.S. Newswire reports that the Salvation Army announced Monday, that it has rescinded it’s policy with regards to implementing a domestic partner policy. "We applaud the Salvation Army for changing what would have been a disastrous course once they realized they had made a wrong decision." said Sany Rios, president of Concerned Women for America (CWA).

In a "Commissioners Conference Statement," Commissioner Lawrence R. Moretz wrote: "We deeply regret the perception that the Commissioners Conference surrendered any Biblical principles in making the original decision. ... I assure you, again, that the Salvation Army has not changed its position on marriage and the family, homosexuality or other position statements, nor have we changed any of our basic doctrines or moral positions. ...We will not sign any government contract or any other funding contracts that contain domestic partner benefit requirements."

Concerned Women for America and other pro-family groups had run radio programs and done numerous interviews urging constituents to contact the Salvation Army with their concern.

"Our understanding is that the Salvation Army will pay a heavy price, both financial and psychological, as liberals begin to assail them for their Biblical stand in favor of marriage and family," Rios said. "We must rally to their support."

In turn, the reversal has shocked gay-rights groups who favor benefits for domestic partners.

"It establishes the organization as anti-gay, and in a country that's yearning to come together and heal, this was an extremely divisive move that I don't think will be looked on kindly," said David Smith, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign. "We're talking about health care, about providing health benefits, and what the Salvation Army has decided to do is prevent certain families from getting health care, and that's just mean."

Study shows attitudes towards gays and lesbians are changing

A story published today by the San Jose Mercury News reports that according to a study initiated by the J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Americans still remain deeply conflicted over how to treat their lesbian and gay friends, family members and co-workers. But there are signs they've acknowledged that acceptance is growing.

A majority of the 2,283 adults surveyed by the Menlo Park-based foundation said they knew someone who is lesbian, gay or bisexual; half said they believe homosexual behavior is morally wrong.

Of the English and Spanish-speakers from the larger, general sample, about three-quarters said they support anti-discrimination measures related to housing, employment, domestic partner benefits and hate crimes.

But more than half said they oppose the legally sanctioned marriage of gay and lesbian couples. Less than half support adoption rights for gay and lesbian couples. But that's up from 1994, when a survey found that less than a third of Americans supported gay and lesbian adoptions.

Mollyann Brodie, the Kaiser Foundation's vice president for public opinion and media research, said there are signs that greater acceptance is emerging, as more gays and lesbians reveal their sexual identity.

"The public's views are complex and they're evolving," she said.

For example, Kaiser reports that 61 percent of respondents wouldn't mind if their child's elementary school teacher were openly gay or lesbian. Acceptance at the high school level is 71 percent.

Maureen O'Leary, executive director of the San Francisco-based national Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, said she was surprised at the number of respondents willing to accept their physician's sexual identity. Sixty percent said they would see a gay or lesbian doctor.

"This indicates that there is a change in perception, and a lot of that has to do with people coming out -- people like me who are visible," she said. "Getting to know someone shows how much alike we are and takes away people's fears."

The Kaiser Foundation's survey of self-identified lesbian, gay and bisexual people showed more willingness to be open about their sexuality. But they reported a stubbornly high level of discrimination, including physical and verbal attacks.

Half said they were out to their family, friends and co-workers, but one-third said they were rejected for coming out.

Monday, November 12, 2001

Canadian province introduces gay marriage registry legislation

A story released today by 365Gay.com reports that in a surprise announcement Friday, the government of Quebec said it hopes to have the legislation introduced by the end of the year that would allow non married couples including gay couples to sign in a marriage registry. The province already has some limited rights for gay and lesbian families.

The announcement is seen as an attempt to draw attention from a Constitutional challenge to Quebec and Canadian definitions of marriage. Quebec is the only area of Canada with laws which define marriage, part of its unique legal system, the Civil Code.

Michael Hendricks and René Leboeuf are in Superior Court in Montreal arguing the case for gay marriage. Neither Hendricks nor Leboeuf were impressed the government's registry announcement.

Their lawyer, Anne-France Goldwater, said "The government is trying to throw a stop to the gay and lesbian community, and at a certain point that's offensive." Goldwater says: "When I throw Fido a bone because he's my dog, I love my dog but it doesn't mean I think he's a human like me."

Goldwater said her clients want the respect and dignity that would come only with marriage.

"Marriage is a complete partnership," Goldwater told Justice Louise Lemelin.

"My clients are not imposing their homosexuality on anyone else. They just want to be married. ... They want the rights and protections to which they have no access, despite 28 years of marriage."

The governments of Quebec and Canada will present their arguments next week.

Sunday, November 11, 2001

Oakland councilmember wants city contractors to offer domestic partner benefits plan

A story published today by the Oakland Tribune reports that the city of Oakland could start requiring contractors who offer benefits to their employees' spouses to do the same for domestic partners, if Councilmember Danny Wan (Grand Lake-Chinatown) wins his colleagues' support.

Wan is proposing that the city of Oakland follow San Francisco, Berkeley and Los Angeles, which have adopted Equal Benefits Ordinances.

The rationale behind such laws is to eliminate unequal practices by employers who pay for benefits to their workers' spouses but not domestic partners – whether they be same-sex or heterosexual couples.

"The city has a policy of nondiscrimination for its contractors and for itself, so the logical next step is to offer equal benefits for all contractors' employees and their partners," Wan said.

According to a report from Oakland's contract compliance division, the cost to contractors is expected to be nominal because the measure only would apply to businesses already offering family benefits.

Lupe Valdez, legislative analyst to the City Council, said about 80  percent of city contractors offer some benefits to their employees, but it is unknown how many of them pay for spousal benefits.

"What I found was that most of the professional service providers already offer domestic partner benefits," she said. "If you want to provide a good work environment and be competitive, you have to. It's really a matter of equity."

Still, the proposed ordinance would be another hurdle for contractors, who must already comply with the city's living-wage policy and meet a myriad of other requirements. Wan said he also wants to look at streamlining the contract compliance process overall.

The city at first tried to offer benefits only to same-sex couples, who cannot enter into a legal marriage here. That policy was challenged, and now the benefits apply to unmarried heterosexual couples as well.

Wan's proposal would apply to all new city contracts exceeding $25,000 and those being renewed. It also would cover leases, franchises and concessions and include waivers for certain situations, such as when a contractor is a sole-source provider.

The proposed ordinance will be discussed for the first time at the City Council's Community and Economic Development Committee meeting at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 13 in City Hall.

Friday, November 9, 2001

Alabama church votes to keep ban on gay clergy

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Alabama Presbyterians have voted to keep a ban on ordaining homosexuals, joining nine other presbyteries across the country that have chosen to oppose a change.

The national general assembly of the 2.5-million-member Presbyterian Church (USA) proposed in June that its Book of Order be amended to remove a requirement that all ordained deacons, elders and ministers uphold the standard of fidelity in marriage or chastity in singleness. The standard also bans the ordination of openly practicing homosexuals.

In a special meeting at Independent Presbyterian Church, Alabama's regional governing body, the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, voted 109 to 59 against amending the Book of Order.

The proposed amendment would allow regional governing bodies to have the option of ordaining openly homosexual candidates for ministry.

More than half of the 173 presbyteries in the denomination would have to approve the change for it to go into effect. Voting on the issue will continue into next year.

Canadian couple fights for recognition of their relationship

A story released today by the Canadian Press reports that Canadian couple petitioned the Quebec Superior Court yesterday to recognize their same-sex marriage, the third such challenge considered by Canadian courts in recent months.

Michael Hendricks, 60, and Rene LeBoeuf, 46, have been together since meeting at a 1973 New Year's Eve party. They want the same rights as heterosexual couples.

"The basis of our argument is that the people of Quebec and Canada have already accepted marriages between gays and lesbians," lawyer Anne-France Goldwater said after the opening session.

"It's just the government and the courts which have not had the courage so far to recognize it. We want the court to do its job and we think it will."

Lawyers for the federal and provincial governments and religious groups will challenge the petition, arguing that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

It's the first court challenge of laws that prohibit same-sex marriage in Quebec, although similar cases have been brought in Ontario and B.C.

Quebec does not recognize common-law marriages between same-sex couples and has not enacted legislation making it easier for gays and lesbians to give medical consent, obtain guardianship of children or receive inheritances upon their spouse's death.

Australian group protests against proposed anti-discrimination laws

A story published today by the West Australian reports that more than 2000 Australians turned out to a pro-marriage and children rally at Parliament House yesterday to protest against the State Government's proposed anti-discrimination laws.

Under the plans, the homosexual consent age will drop from 21 to 16 and de facto and same-sex couples will have the same legal rights as married couples.

Victory Life Church pastor Margaret Court said Australia and its laws had been built on biblical principles and the changes threatened to plunge the nation into darkness and immorality.

Catholic Archbishop Barry Hickey said all people were children of God and equal but it was a mistake to put de facto and gay relationships on an equal footing with marriage. He said the Government's proposed changes would undermine marriage and create confusion for children.

Thursday, November 8, 2001

Senate approves D.C. domestic-partner law

A story published today by the Washington Post reports that the Senate voted yesterday to allow the District for the first time to implement a domestic-partners law, ending a nine-year congressional logjam and handing a victory to city home rule advocates.

In passing the District's $5.3 billion fiscal 2002 budget by a vote of 75 to 24, the Senate joined the House in letting the city use local funds to implement a 1992 local measure that allows government workers to buy health insurance for unmarried or same-sex partners.

"Sometimes, I think our District has been treated as a national guinea pig instead of the nation's capital," said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the new Democratic chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on the District, who championed the measure. "I hope . . . we can use new words to describe this partnership -- instead of partisanship, partnership -- words such as 'trust' and 'respect,' respect for local decision making."

Several senior Republican appropriators and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) have opposed the domestic-partners provision, but the centrist direction of the chamber became clear during the day, and no senator rose to object to it.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) hailed the breakthroughs. "This is a win in three ways: for human rights, for home rule and in both houses of Congress," she said. A spokesman for Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) praised Landrieu but said the city needs expanded authority to spend $72 million to plug a school system deficit and cover post-Sept. 11 emergency overtime costs.

Winnie Stachelberg, political director of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, said, "The Senate upheld the value of family by removing unnecessary barriers and making it easier for families to acquire health coverage."

The domestic-partners benefit was approved with the overall budget, which also included $408 million in direct federal funding for District initiatives and $1.7 billion in federal grants that are available to states and cities across the country. All four Virginia and Maryland senators voted for the District budget.

The District domestic-partners measure allows couples to register with the city, the only cost to the government. The law also grants family and medical leave privileges to city employees and lets all qualifying resident couples claim familial rights at hospitals, nursing homes and adoption agencies.

About 3,678 city households were same-sex couples, according to the 2000 Census. The law includes heterosexual couples, adult siblings and caregivers in a familial relationship of mutual caring.

California appellate court rules ‘second-parent’ adoptions not legal

A story published today by the Sacramento Bee reports that a recent California appellate court decision has cast doubts on the legal validity of thousands of adoptions by lesbian couples and panicked families throughout the state.

The adoptions were finalized under the state's so-called "second-parent" adoption practice, which allows children of lesbian couples throughout the state to have two legal parents. Although state law does not expressly allow second-parent adoptions, they have been used routinely since 1985.

But a decision late last month by the 4th Appellate District Court in San Diego found that such adoptions are not legal.

Second-parent adoptions have been used primarily by lesbian families in which one partner has carried the child, usually with the help of an anonymous sperm donor. In those cases, the nonbiological partner has no legal right to the child.

Without legal standing, second parents cannot sign school papers, authorize medical treatment, travel abroad with the children or perform countless other official parental tasks.

Heterosexual couples have little need for second-parent adoptions because they can marry and use existing stepparent-adoption laws.

Responding to the needs of what was an increasing number of lesbian couples who were becoming pregnant, the state Department of Social Services counseled counties for years to essentially jury-rig the independent- adoption statute to allow a biological mother's partner to become a legal parent, even though they are unmarried.

And for years, that's what thousands of lesbian couples did, including a San Diego couple identified only in court documents as Sharon S. and Annette F.

Sharon gave birth to a son, Zachary. Annette became his adoptive second parent. But in 1999, after Sharon gave birth to their second child, Joshua, the couple split.

Annette petitioned to become Joshua's second parent, but this time Sharon opposed the adoption and argued that existing state law made no provision for Annette to become an adoptive parent. A Superior Court judge disagreed, but the state's 4th Appellate District Court issued a ruling Oct. 25 upholding Sharon's argument.

Canadian gay marriages would destroy the institute of marriage

A story published today the National Post (Canada) reports that according to the lawyers for the Canadian federal government who argued at a court hearing in Toronto, the institution of marriage will be essentially destroyed if it is extended to same-sex couples.

Three Ontario Superior Court judges are hearing a motion by eight gay and lesbian couples that the ban on same-sex marriages violates the Charter of Rights.

Their lawyers argued this week that the prohibition contravenes the equality provisions of the Charter and asked the court to order the City of Toronto to grant the couples marriage licenses.

But Roslyn Levine, a lawyer for the federal government, said that by its very definition, marriage applies only to the union of a man and a woman.

She added the definition is "Charter proof" because it is not intended to exclude any group but to outline the "goods and goals" of a heterosexual union.

Ms. Levine was quizzed a number of times by the judges about her insistence that "procreation" is an essential element of marriage.

Ms. Levine said it is a "red herring" to argue whether heterosexual couples who will not have children should still be permitted to marry.

When Mr. Justice Robert Blair noted same-sex couples can have children through adoption or advances in reproductive technology, Ms. Levine suggested it is the potential for procreation that is relevant.

"Procreation is a metaphor for the concept" of a heterosexual union, she said.

Mr. Justice Harry LaForme rejected the argument and said that procreation is the result of a physical act.

Ms. Levine then reminded the judges "the Charter does not operate in a vacuum," and changes to social policy should be left to Parliament. She said while Canadians support spousal benefits for same-sex partners, a large majority also believe the only definition of marriage is the union of a man and woman.

If the court changes any of the purposes for which marriage was designed, "you would be saying we can make marriage whatever we want," Ms. Levine said.

Judge LaForme again disagreed, saying "the goods and goals as you define marriage remain," even if applied to a committed same-sex couple.

The Ontario court hearing is scheduled to continue the rest of the week. A ruling is not expected for several weeks.

Wednesday, November 7, 2001

Michigan cities show tolerance on gay issues

A story published today by the Kalamazoo Gazette reports that gay-rights battles in Kalamazoo and two other Michigan cities failed to produce victories for the religious conservatives showing a positive sign of growing tolerance among voting communities.

The clear defeat of a measure in Kalamazoo that would have blocked the city from passing laws protecting gays is the first step toward opening up the community, activists here say.

"It equals a giant step toward bridging the gap between the straight and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Kalamazoo," said Terry Kuseske, board president for the Gay and Lesbian Resource Center. "We're putting a face on the LGBT community. We're not this fictional character that can be villainized anymore."

The proposed city charter amendment helped fuel larger-than-normal turnout at the polls, where it was rejected by 54 percent of the voters.

Traverse city voters also refused a similar ballot proposal by almost the same margin, and a pro-gay ordinance in Huntington Woods won overwhelming approval.

In all three Michigan cities, religious conservatives assisted by the American Family Association of Michigan had lobbied for voters to end what they called "preferential treatment" of gays.

Kalamazoo Citizens Voting Yes for Equal Rights Not Special Rights said they were disappointed at the result but encouraged by thousands who turned out to "stand up for family values."

"At one time this nation was more in tune to the biblical standards now anything goes," said Jacob Van Giessen, the group's president.

The proposal was sparked by a controversial policy enacted by City Manager Pat DiGiovanni last year that allowed gay city employees to cover their partners under health benefits.

In the end, the vote largely challenged Kalamazoo's reputation as a liberal enclave in a county of mostly conservative western Michigan Republicans.

"It's a very evenly balanced issue for Kalamazoo," Mayor Robert Jones said. "On one hand, we're very deeply religious and on the other side, we're very progressive. So it running close didn't surprise me."

Houston voters reject same-sex benefits

A story published today by the Houston Chronicle reports that in the latest mix of Houston politics and gay issues, voters Tuesday installed a ban on benefits such as health insurance for unmarried domestic partners of municipal workers.

With the vote counted in all precincts, 52 percent of ballots said "yes" on Proposition 2, which essentially said city workers can share job perks only with spouses and children -- not with unmarried partners of the opposite sex or the same sex.

"We are very pleased at the outcome," said Dave Wilson, a conservative activist who forced the city charter change proposal onto the ballot by gathering signatures from more than 20,000 voters. "There are some things that need to happen to continue with the effort for family values and marriage in this community."

Wilson, outspent by his campaign opposition, said he would have piled up a more impressive victory if "the Christian community" had joined his cause publicly.

"Questions need to be asked" about the reluctance of conservatives to campaign for his proposition, he said.

Wilson said he spent about $100,000 of his own money on the campaign through his organization called Houstonians for Family Values, and raised about $30,000 more. His opposition, People for a Fair Houston, spent roughly three times more and was steered by Grant Martin, re-election campaign manager for Annise Parker, City Council's only openly gay member.

Martin said Tuesday night that a victory for Wilson meant that advocates of equal rights for gays need to do a better job of educating voters about such issues.

"This amendment is writing discrimination into our charter," Martin said

One victory and one loss as voters review domestic partner benefits

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that voters in two cities came to opposite results as they reviewed domestic partner benefits for municipal employees.

The loss came in Houston, where voters approved amending the city charter to prohibit the nation's fourth-largest city from offering benefits to domestic partners.

In Miami Beach, Fla., voters said the city should provide employee benefits to domestic partners.

Measure 102 which passed by a margin of 65.7 to 34.3 percent and will extend health care benefits to the domestic partners of all Miami Beach city workers. The other measure, Measure 115 which passed by a margin of 68.5 to 31.5 percent will extend pension benefits to the domestic partners of fire and police workers

Both proposals define domestic partners as two people in a committed relationship that is registered with the city.

In Houston, however, 51.5 percent of voters favored prohibiting the city from becoming the first in Texas to offer health benefits to partners of gay and lesbian municipal employees with 48.5 percent of the voters opposing it.

 

 

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