This page contains news for the period November 14, 2001 through November 20,
November 2001 >>
November 18, 2001
Alaska Superior Court judge
rules city and state does not have to provide same-sex benefits
A story published today by the Anchorage Daily News reports that an Anchorage, Alaska
Superior Court judge has ruled that the city of Anchorage and the state of Alaska does not
have to extend benefits to gay or lesbian partners of employees and retirees.
Judge Stephanie Joannides decided that same-sex couples fall into the same legal
category as unmarried male-female couples and neither are entitled to city or state
benefits under current law.
The ruling Friday marks a disappointing loss for nine same-sex couples who filed a
lawsuit demanding health insurance and pension benefits in 1999.
The plaintiffs in the case argued that, like married couples, they intend to stay
together for life and are financially and emotionally responsible for each other.
The couples were unconstitutionally denied benefits because, unlike heterosexual
couples, they don't have the option of getting married, Alaska Civil Liberties Union
attorney Allison Mendel said Saturday. In 1998 voters in Alaska overwhelmingly approved a
constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.
Mendel faulted Joannides' decision.
"She never explains why we're similarly situated with people that could get
married if they wanted to," she said. "Clearly, when you made it illegal for
same-sex couples to marry, what does that have to do with unmarried heterosexual couples?
The AkCLU plans to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.
The lawsuit, filed by the AkCLU and the national ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project,
represents the interests of eight lesbian couples in which at least one partner works for
the state. The other couple consists of two gay men, one of whom is an Anchorage city
Joannides ruled that the state's discrimination against unmarried partners doesn't run
afoul of a clause in the constitution that promises "equal protection" because
the policy treats all unmarried people the same.
She also ruled that health insurance and other employment benefits are not fundamental
rights of state employees.
"The right to employment benefits from the State is not explicitly or implicitly
contained in our constitution, nor is it a linchpin of our free society," the judge
wrote. "It is merely a benefit to employment, one that may be of great aid or desire,
but not a fundamental right.' "
Study reveals a steady rise in
A story published today by the Roanoke Times reports that a University of Wisconsin
study found that 59 percent of couples married between 1990 and 1994 lived together first,
up from 46 percent a decade earlier.
Once more of an urban or university-town trend, the phenomenon of couples living
together increased most dramatically in rural areas during the 1990s. Even older, often
retired couples are finding cohabitation an attractive alternative.
Nationwide, the Census Bureau reported that the number of unmarried-partner households
- which includes both heterosexual and homosexual couples - climbed 72 percent in the
'90s. In Virginia, 4.7 percent are unmarried partners, slightly below the national average
of 5.2 percent.
Marriage is more than a legal contract for many people; it is a union blessed by God.
Some worry that if marriage fades in popularity, so will the religious and moral beliefs
it represents, particularly for children raised in the homes of unmarried couples.
But there also is a growing movement of people who say marriage doesn't work for
everyone. Many gay couples who would like to marry cannot do so legally. Rather than force
people to conform to one standard, groups such as the Alternatives to Marriage Project
argue, why not support all families, no matter how they are defined?
The median age for first-time marriages has been on the rise, according to 2000 Census
data. Today's young people are the oldest to wed since the government began tracking the
statistic in 1890: 26.8 for men, 25.1 for women.
Many young men and women told a recent Gallup Poll that they endorsed cohabitation, and
were open to raising children outside of marriage.
But the issue goes deeper than that, said George Worgul , a professor at Duquesne
University's Family Institute. Many people are wary of marriage after watching their
parents' generation raise the divorce rate to where it now hovers, at about 50 percent.
Perhaps because of that, Worgul said, people have an unrealistic view of what it means
to find a "soul mate."
Previous generations tended to use objective criteria, such as earning potential or
parenting skills, to pick a mate.
"What's changed is that young men and women have this idea that there is a
princess or prince who is always going to make them happy," he said.
Worgul said sometimes cohabitants don't even argue about the issues married couples
argue about, such as spending habits or the in-laws. Then, if they do end up marrying - as
about half of cohabiting heterosexual couples eventually do - they find themselves
inexperienced at working through problems.
Those who argue between marriage and cohabitation are missing the point, said Koval of
Cal State. He believes researchers instead should study the deep-rooted reasons couples
live together and find ways for everyone to have successful, long-term relationships.
Friday, November 16, 2001
Australian priest dismissed
by university for signing ad opposing same-sex law reforms
A story released today by the CNSNews reports that an Australian University has
dismissed a Roman Catholic priest for signing a public notice urging the state government
not to formally recognize homosexual relationships.
Edith Cowan University said in a letter to the Catholic Archbishop of Perth, Barry
Hickey, that it would no longer require the services of Fr. David Watt, a visiting
chaplain not paid by the university, because of his "recent public actions."
The university was unhappy that Watt had, without authorization, identified himself
with the institution when he signed a notice published in The West Australian newspaper.
The notice said: "Marriage and homosexual relationships are not equivalent and
therefore should not be treated as equivalent under the law."
It advertised a public rally to oppose efforts by the Western Australian government to
give homosexuals the same legal rights as heterosexuals. Watt had added his name, and gave
his position as "Catholic chaplain to Edith Cowan University."
In response to queries, ECU vice-chancellor Prof. Millicent Poole said Friday the
university would continue to take seriously unauthorized action that misrepresented the
university position publicly on any issue.
"We have advised the Archbishop that this action was taken after considerable
consideration and was in particular response to recent unacceptable indiscretions on Fr.
Watt's behalf," Poole said.
A spokesman for Archbishop Hickey said he hoped to meet with university
representatives to discuss the matter. Hickey has himself been outspokenly opposed to the
legal reforms, and also signed the notice at the center of the controversy.
Among the proposals introduced in the state's legislature by the Labor government on
Wednesday is one lowering the age of sexual consent for homosexuals from 21 to 16. The
proposed legislation will bring Western Australian laws into line with those in force in
most other states.
In earlier reaction, Hickey said while all people were equal, all relationships were
not, and he urged the government to reconsider.
"The Church has always maintained that the proper use of sex is within marriage
because of its inherent link with committed love and the procreation of children," he
said in a statement. "Other relationships of a sexual nature cannot therefore be
considered the same as marriage."
Wednesday, November 14, 2001
Oakland panel approves
domestic partners ordinance
A story published today by the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Oakland
city council unanimously passed a proposal that would make companies that do business with
the city of Oakland to provide domestic partner benefits.
The ordinance by Councilman Danny Wan, is based on San Francisco's 4-year-old law.
Berkeley followed suit last spring, and San Mateo County also has such a policy.
"We want to make sure gay and lesbian relationships are recognized not only by
government but by business," said Wan, whose proposal is expected to receive full
council approval in two weeks. "It legitimizes those relationships."
Oakland began providing benefits to domestic partners of city employees in 1998.
Under Wan's proposal, companies that provide goods and services to the city worth more
than $25,000 a year -- compared with $5,000 a year in San Francisco -- would be required
to provide domestic partner benefits if they provide benefits to employees' spouses.
City staff estimate the new law could increase the cost of contracts between 0.5
percent and 2 percent.
Atlanta's new may vows to push for
domestic partner contractor law
A story published today by the Southern Voice reports that Shirley Franklin earned
50.24 percent of the vote Tuesday to become Atlanta's next mayor -- and the city's first
female chief executive -- gaining just 191 votes more than needed to win the race outright
and avoid a runoff.
"Support from gay voters helped me win, but support from gay voters also helped me
get name recognition and credibility in the general community early on, and it helped me
understand the issues, such as the issues faced by working people who are gay,
neighborhoods and state relationships, " Mayor-elect Franklin said Wednesday.
Franklin presented gay voters with an 11-point plan for addressing their issues. It
includes strong support for requiring city contractors to offer domestic partner benefits,
using the mayor's office as a "bully pulpit" to push for statewide
non-discrimination laws, working to market Atlanta as a gay tourism destination and
"actively and aggressively" seeking gays for city appointments.
Franklin said Wednesday she will "absolutely" fulfill her promises, starting
with her transition team as she prepares to take the city's helm.
"I will carry forward that platform of diversity and I look forward to having [openly
gay] members on the transition team and advisory committees as well as in my
cabinet," she said.
Franklin's packed Tuesday night victory party at the Hyatt Regency Hotel drew hundreds of
supporters, including members of the gay political groups that unanimously endorsed her.