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Domestic Partnership News Archive
November 29 - November 30, 2001




This page contains news for the period November 29, 2001 through November 30, 2001.




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Friday, November 30, 2001

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Georgia city mulls over domestic partner benefits

A story published today by the Southern Voice reports that Georgia's East Point City Council meeting Monday night started off with a heated argument when outgoing Council member Melvin Pittman accused City Attorney David Couch and Mayor Patsy Jo Hilliard of conspiring to keep a vote on domestic partner benefits off the meetings agenda.

In an interview last week, Hilliard said the city was awaiting approval from Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendines office to proceed  with considering DP benefits.

But Oxendines staff said there has been no inquiry made by either the city of East Point or its insurance provider, United Healthcare.

Couch, the East Point city attorney, said when East Point was notified their insurance carrier had received approval from the state to offer domestic partner benefits early this year, city attorneys believed the phrasing was "too vague."

City officials asked the insurer to "tighten the language and get that amendment approved" by the state, according to Couch.

"I just learned of that approval today," said Couch after this weeks City Council meeting.  He confirmed East Point is now free of any legal hindrances to providing domestic partner benefits.

Because domestic partner benefits were not on the official meeting agenda on Monday, Pittman was forced to register as a public speaker in order to address the issue.

"I have real concerns about leaving this council Dec. 31 and having this issue pushed off.  I strongly believe this needs to be addressed before then," said Pittman.

East Point is considering changing insurance carriers in the near future, Hilliard said, "and it wouldn't make sense to propose anything until we settle on a new carrier."

On the eight member Council, any legislation would require at least five votes to pass. Pittman, Carnes and Prince have all publicly stated they would support domestic partner benefits. Council members Ann Douglas and Brian Twadell confirmed again this week they would vote against any such proposal.

Council members Threet Brown and Pat Langford, both of whom had previously declined to be interviewed, said they "needed time to consult with constituents" before they knew how they would vote.

A mayoral vote is required to break a tie, and while Hilliard has said she does not know how she would vote, she has strongly hinted given East Points "forty churches," she would vote against the benefits.

Thursday, November 29, 2001

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Washington's Snohomish county extends health benefits to domestic partners

A story published today by the Herald reports that Washington's Snohomish county government workers will soon be able to get the same health insurance for their domestic partners the same as married couples.

The policy, part of a new three-year contract with a union representing 2,000 county employees, extends benefits previously granted only to married couples.

The Snohomish County Council approved the new labor contract Nov. 7 in a 4-1 vote.

"I think it's becoming common in a lot of jurisdictions, and it's sort of an equity, fairness issue," said Dave Somers, county council chairman.

The extended benefits would increase county costs roughly $50,000 a year for health coverage, said Roger Neumaier, executive office administrator for county executive Bob Drewel.

It's part of an overall benefit package that will hold county health care costs for union employees to a half-percent increase in 2002 and an estimated 6 percent increase in 2003, Neumaier said.

Large governments and corporations have increasingly extended benefits to domestic partners, partly to help keep and attract workers, said Aaron Pollock, a benefits consultant in the Seattle office of Marsh Inc., a national insurance consulting firm. He has advised Snohomish County on its benefits package.

But the benefits have proven controversial, particularly for government agencies using taxpayer money, Pollock said.

"They do have concerns about what that says and whether they are condoning a particular lifestyle. And that does tend to be a political issue," he said.

In Washington, governments offering domestic partner benefits include the state, King County and the cities of Seattle, Vancouver and Olympia.

Some other counties offer benefits only to same-sex couples. A number of local governments and school districts also offer domestic partner benefits because they purchase coverage through the state.

In Snohomish County, the Snohomish County Public Utility District offers benefits to domestic partners, as do several small taxing districts with the state benefits program. There are no other local governments now offering it, according to a Human Rights Campaign list.

With the new program starting Jan. 1, Snohomish County officials are still not sure how they will ask people to show someone is a domestic partner. Nor do they have a clear definition of who will qualify, said Dave Ellgen, an analyst in the Human Resources Department. He said they are looking to programs in other governments for guidance.


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Pope condemns same-sex couples as a threat to the natural family institution

A story released today by Gay.com UK reports that the Pope has condemned same-sex couples as well as abortion and divorce for slowly destroying the traditional family unit.

The Pope, speaking to a congress on family issues said that there is a "violent attack" on the family by some sectors of modern society.

"They favor bringing the dangerous shadow of the culture of death inside the domestic hearth," he added.

The Pope said that gay and lesbian unions threatened the "natural institution" of the family. He urged members of the Catholic Church to fight laws that threaten the traditional family institution.



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