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Domestic Partnership News Archive
November 14 - November 20, 2001




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




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Sunday, 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? Nothing."

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 employee.

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 cohabitation

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.



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