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Domestic Partnership News Archive
November 21 - November 28, 2001

 

 

 
 

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

 

 

 

<<   November 2001  >>

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Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Michigan group plans to protest Salvation Army

A story released today by CNSNews.com reports that the American Family Association (AFA) of Michigan said it would redeem, in cash, the phony five-dollar bills a pro-homosexuality group plans to distribute to the Salvation Army over the holiday season.

The Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG) of Genesee County have vowed to distribute "phony $5 bills" in a campaign against the Salvation Army that recently rescinded its decision to provide domestic partner benefits for its Western Territory employees. The fake bills will be dropped in charity kettles across the state of Michigan, said Mary Scholl, the organization's president.

"It is to let the Salvation Army know that their policies [against homosexuality] are unacceptable, and that we will donate to other organizations instead," Scholl said. "We want to let them know that their policies are hurtful to our loved ones."

The AFA-Michigan plans to take steps to counter the fake bills. Gary Glenn, president of the organization, said he would donate a real $5 bill for every phony bill that PFLAG places in the Salvation Army kettles, up to $1,000.

Glenn said that "since it's unlikely those who drop fake donations into Salvation Army kettles were ever actual donors in the past, the local chapter of the over century-old Christian charity will enjoy a net increase in the state.

"What homosexuality advocates intend for harm, with God's grace at this Christmas season, we will turn to good," Glenn said.

Scholl said her organization is not worried about any legal problems that might ensue as a result of distributing the fake money.

She said the bills they plan to drop in the kettles do not resemble United States currency. Their bills more closely resemble a slip of paper with the message: "I would have donated five dollars but the Salvation Army decision to discriminate against gays & lesbian employees prevents my donation now and in the future."

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Domestic partners launch class action suit for pension benefits in Canada

A story released today by the Canadian Press reports that bereaved Canadian gay and lesbian spouses have launched a pair of class-action lawsuits in a bid to coax $400 million in what they consider outstanding survivor benefits out of the Canada Pension Plan.

The suits, filed Tuesday in Toronto and Vancouver, allege Ottawa is discriminating against same-sex couples by denying benefits to gays and lesbians whose partners died before Jan. 1, 1998.

That's the cut-off date the federal government imposed on an estimated 10,000 gays and lesbians last year when it amended laws granting various rights and benefits to same-sex couples, lawyer Douglas Elliott told a news conference.

"The Jan. 1, 1998 cut-off date was imposed on same-sex couples on a purely arbitrary basis and without any legal justification," said Elliott, flanked by co-counsel Patricia LeFebour and lead plaintiff George Hislop.

The suit seeks benefits for all applicable gay and lesbian survivors retroactive to April 17, 1985, the day equality guarantees were enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The government's refusal to fully pay benefits is most galling in light of the fact that gays and lesbians pay into the pension plan the same way all working Canadians do, LeFebour said.

"Working gays and lesbians have paid into the plan all their lives," she said. "The government does not discriminate when it collects the money; it only discriminates in paying the benefit."

The Toronto suit includes plaintiffs from every province except British Columbia and Quebec, which has its own separate pension plan.

"It seems the government wants to give itself immunity for past discrimination," Hislop said. "Our government has effectively confiscated our pensions."

Monday, November 26, 2001

Colorado State University declines to offer domestic partner benefits

A story released today by the U-Wire reports that Colorado State University which promotes itself as a leader in diversity is violating its commitment to diversity by failing to extend domestic partner benefits to employees in same-sex relationships.

In 1994 and again in 2000, the CSU Benefits Committee recommended that CSU extend domestic partner benefits to faculty and administrative professional employees in same-sex relationships. However, the administration has not complied with these recommendations.

"The recommendations were deeply considered," said Tom Milligan, a university spokesman. "However, we are regulated and there is legislative oversight to consider. The position of the university is that until there is more of a consensus in the state, it would be counterproductive to go out on our own and offer such benefits without a climate of support."

"The administration is concerned with doing what is politically safe for the University, regardless of whether or not it is the right thing to do," said Dani Holvech, a first-year graduate student in student affairs and higher education. "If CSU really honors its commitment to diversity, then it would recognize that in order to maintain diverse faculty, it has to provide benefits that validate our lives."

Jerry Bigner, a professor of human development and family studies, agreed, saying the resistance is purely political.

"(Vice President for Administrative Service at CSU Gerard) Bomotti attended a meeting with the Domestic Partner Benefits Committee last spring in which he informed us that the political climate in the Colorado Legislature was such that if this were implemented it could threaten funding for the university because of the conservative element there possibly becoming upset with the issue," Bigner said.

Many feel Bomotti, who declined to comment, is primarily responsible for blocking CSU's benefits to domestic partners.

The question has been raised over whether CSU violates its own nondiscrimination policy by failing to extend domestic partner benefits.

"I don't believe, nor does legal council believe we are violating nondiscrimination policies based on sexual orientation," said Dana Hiatt, director of the office of equal opportunity. "The university's inclusion of sexual orientation in the nondiscrimination policy is the only element in the nondiscrimination policy that isn't protected by state law.

"We also have requirements within the state laws as to the benefits and coverage that can be provided to state employees. I also think it is important to note that we do not offer benefits to domestic partners unless they are in a marital relationship, heterosexual or homosexual."

"Private institutions such as the University of Denver and Colorado College receive funds from tuition, donations and research grants, and not from Legislature as CSU does," said Sue Ellen Charlton, a professor of political science and chairwoman of faculty council at CSU. "Also, Boulder and Denver are subject to 'house rule,' where they are able to pass policies within the boundaries that affect only those entities.

"We have to be realistic, not na´´ve, about the fact that those who oppose extending domestic partner benefits could use financial levers to punish the university. That is why we need a change in statewide policy."

UK’s unwed couples could double by 2021

A story published today by the Guardian (U.K.) reports that according to the 18th British social attitudes survey, there is a rapid collapse of the moral majority's opposition to couples having children outside marriage.

In 1989 it found almost three-quarters of adults thought people should get married before raising a family. By last year that proportion had shrunk to little over half.

The statisticians described the drop as dramatic and said there was "a strong likelihood" that society would become even more liberal on these matters as a more permissive younger generation took the place of older people with traditional views.

The survey revealed that only a third of 18-24 year-olds thought marriage should come before parenthood. Older people were also starting to come to terms with an increasing trend towards cohabitation.

The proportion of couples living as husband and wife without being married increased from 5% in 1986 to 15% in 1999 and is predicted to double by 2021. A quarter of all children are also born to cohabiting couples.

The survey, based on interviews with more than 3,000 adults, found that a clear majority saw nothing wrong in pre-marital sex and more than two-thirds thought cohabitation was acceptable, even if the partners did not intend to get married.

The survey also found that 91% of cohabitants did not have written agreements about their shares in the ownership of the family home, leaving many without any entitlement if the relationship broke down or a partner died.

Nine in 10 did not change their wills or sign parental responsibility agreements, raising huge problems of potential disinheritance and lack of entitlement for separating fathers. Even those who were aware of their lack of legal rights were not much more likely to have made appropriate provision for themselves.

The survey found massive public support for giving to cohabitants those rights and obligations that are limited to married couples in England and Wales, but in Scotland are in the process of reform.

More than 90% thought unmarried partners should have the right to inherit each other's property if they had lived together for at least 10 years, and 97% thought separated fathers should have the right to consent to a child's medical treatment. Nearly two-thirds thought an unmarried woman should have the same right to financial support as a married one if the relationship ended after 10 years.

The report also revealed that there is still a strong support for marriage as an ideal set up of a relationship. Only 9% dismissed it as "just a piece of paper" and nearly six in 10 thought it was still the best kind of relationship.

However, the same report shows that most cohabiting relationships last fewer than 10 years, with 59% converting into marriages and most of the rest dissolving.

Sunday, November 25, 2001

Virginia denies benefits to Sept. 11 domestic partners

A story published today by the Washington Post reports that Peg Neff and Sheila Hein placed a plaque with Robert Browning's poetry in their garden a few years ago, believing they would spend the rest of their lives together. But American Airlines Flight 77 ended their 18-year relationship Sept. 11. The hijacked jet slammed into the Pentagon almost exactly at the spot where Hein, a civilian Army employee, had been reassigned the week before.

Americans across the nation want to help the terrorism victims – they've donated more than $1 billion to that cause. But when Neff began calling the dozens of agencies and charity groups offering benefits, she quickly learned that many were unable or unwilling to look beyond the classic definitions: spouse, child or parent.

Sheila Hein, it turns out, died in the wrong state.  New York Gov. George E. Pataki (R) issued a proclamation making it clear that his state would help longtime domestic partners of victims at the World Trade Center. But Virginia officials have stayed silent on the subject, leaving in place a law that limits victims' benefits to spouses, parents, grandparents, siblings and children.

"New York embraced all of the victims. Virginia chose to exclude some of them. That was heartless and unfair," said David Smith, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, which lobbies for gay rights and has worked to help Neff.  "This was an 18-year relationship that was a marriage in every sense of the word but the legal one.  It illustrates the inequities of our legal situation."

Hein's Army job gave her $2,300 a month in take-home pay. Neff and a friend have contacted more than a dozen charities and government agencies.

The Red Cross came up with $7,900 for immediate expenses, the National Association of Realtors helped with their house mortgage, and a federal employees group promised some assistance.

But Neff has been denied Hein's government life insurance, been turned down by the Virginia Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and even had to get Hein's mother to sign a power of attorney before the Army would release her partner's remains to her.

Several groups have told her they haven't set guidelines for which relatives qualify for aid. Others, particularly state and federal agencies, said they were bound by laws and rules reserving key decisions and benefits for next of kin.

California appellate court clarifies decision on gay adoptions

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a California state appellate court clarified some of the language from a ruling it made last month that suggested gay adoptions by a second parent were illegal.

The 2-1 ruling Oct. 25 by the 4th District Court of Appeal in San Diego found no legal authority for second-parent adoptions that allow unmarried partners to legally gain equal status as parents.

On Wednesday, the Appellate court declined to reconsider its ruling but deleted some of the language suggesting the adoptions were illegal.

"The issue of the validity of such adoptions is not presented in this case and has not been briefed by the parties, and we do not address it here," the justices said in an added passage.

But gay-rights activists say they're not sure the amendment removes all the anxieties and uncertainties created by the ruling. Gay-rights organizations had estimated the ruling could affect 10,000 to 20,000 adoptions over the past 15 years.

The American Civil Liberties Union also has denounced last month's decision, claiming it jeopardizes the financial and emotional well-being of children who have been adopted in California via the procedure.

The case involved a lesbian couple, identified only as Sharon and Annette, who broke up while Annette was adopting Sharon's son, who is now 2.

Sharon sued to block the adoption, claiming the procedure was illegal, even though Annette had adopted Sharon's first child, now 5.

A trial court had sided with Annette and gave her visitation rights with the boy.

The appeals court reversed the decision and noted that the state Legislature in recent years has declined to write the "second-parent" adoption method into law.

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Gay marriage petition heats up in Massachusetts

A story published today by the Boston Globe reports that the fiercest battle over gay rights in Massachusetts in more than a decade is being fought face to face at neighborhood supermarkets, shopping malls, and T stops, often in a less than civil manner.

As a conservative organization attempts to collect 80,000 signatures, gay rights activists have tailed the group, trying to dissuade the public from signing. The two sides have traded allegations of stalking, spitting, swearing, name-calling, lying, and deceptive signature-gathering tactics that has led Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly to issue a warning to voters last week.

This week, as city and town clerks collect the petitions from Massachusetts Citizens for Marriage, gay activists are pondering a potential reversal of fortune: Massachusetts, once considered to be in the forefront of gay rights, could become the 37th state to ban gay marriages.

Polls consistently show that even as the public grows more comfortable with extending domestic partner benefits, such as health insurance and hospital visitation, voters remain opposed to gay marriage.

''Every state this has been on the ballot has passed it by a wide margin,'' said Bryan G. Rudnick, chairman of Massachusetts Citizens for Marriage. ''We don't think the taxpayers believe they have to pay for the benefits of unmarried partners, regardless of sexual preference. Domestic partner benefits are just bad public policy.''

The vitriolic debate began in late July, when Rudnick's group launched the petition, which he said is aimed at keeping marriage ''the way it's always been.''

''The citizens want to ensure that marriage remains between a man and a woman,'' Rudnick said. ''The great thing about a petition drive is it shows the citizens truly want it because it takes [nearly] 60,000 signatures to put it forward.''

As a constitutional amendment, the initiative needs 57,100 signatures, though petitioners are collecting extra in case of challenges. Then, the initiative must be approved by a quarter of the Legislature in two consecutive sessions. If successful, it could appear on the ballot as soon as 2004.

The initiative campaign has touched off a debate in the gay community about how to fight it. Activists challenged its legality first before the Supreme Judicial Court, a case that is pending.

Meanwhile, though some believe that gay groups should save their resources for the 2004 election, advocates like Arline Isaacson, co-chairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, pushed the ''Decline to Sign'' campaign, hoping to avoid a long and difficult struggle.

''Leading up to the vote it's so ugly,'' Isaacson said, ''and it frequently degenerates into antigay rhetoric, antigay violence, and people are really worried about that.''

 

 

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