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Domestic Partnership News Archive
December 01 - December 06, 2001

 

 

 
 

This page contains news for the period December 01, 2001 through December 06, 2001.

 

 

 

<<   December 2001  >>

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Thursday, December 6, 2001

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Virginia resident sues state to allow her to adopt

A story published today by the Washington Post reports that an Episcopal priest asked an Arlington court yesterday to force Virginia to allow her to adopt a foster child from the District, contending that the state is stalling on her application because she is a lesbian.

Linda Kaufman has already adopted one child, and the District has more than 1,000 children awaiting placement. District officials and an adoption agency licensed in Virginia have found she is well qualified to care for a second child.

"The stability that a child gets from being in a permanent home is something that can't be made up in a foster home or institution, and we have that to offer," Kaufman said. "We have a great neighborhood and great friends who would like to welcome someone else. It seems silly not to."

The Virginia attorney general's office and the Virginia Department of Social Services declined to comment on the lawsuit.

According to the suit, filed by the gay rights group Lambda Legal Defense Fund, Virginia doesn't officially ban adoptions by gay men and lesbians. Rather, applications are supposed to be considered on a case-by-case basis with the welfare of the child being the most important criterion. In 1992, Virginia approved Kaufman's adoption of a boy, then 5 years old, from District foster care.

Kaufman's lawyers allege that state officials are acting in an ad hoc fashion to bar her because of their own views of homosexuality, and Kaufman wants an Arlington Circuit Court judge to force the Department of Social Services to follow its own policies.

Lesbian custody has been a hot legal issue in Virginia over the years. The Virginia Supreme Court held in the 1981 case of Doe v. Doe that being a lesbian does not automatically make a woman unfit to be a parent. But in 1995, the state high court ruled 4 to 3 that lesbian Sharon Bottoms should lose custody of her son to the child's grandmother.

Kaufman, 50, is director of homeless services for the Downtown DC Business Improvement District and preaches part time at St. Stephen and the Incarnation in Columbia Heights. She decided to try to adopt a second child in 1999 and went through the District's training program for prospective parents. Then she and her partner of four years, Liane Rozzell, went through a home evaluation from Lutheran Family Services, as required by Virginia, and received a favorable report.

But Virginia officials have not acted on Kaufman's application, despite repeated requests from Adams and Lutheran Family Services. In April, the state told the agency that Kaufman's application had been referred directly to Social Services Commissioner Sonia Rivero.

Kristin Hansen, spokeswoman for the conservative Family Research Council, praised Virginia's refusal to approve the adoption. "Adoption law should not intentionally deprive a child of both a mother and a father," she said.

Wednesday, December 5, 2001

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Domestic partner benefits included in D.C.’s Home Rule budget

A story published by the Washington Post reports that congressional leaders approved the District's first post-control board budget last night, rolling back federal bans on disputed local initiatives such as domestic partner benefits and honoring every city funding request.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and the city's congressional overseers hailed the $5.3 billion agreement, which pours new money into the city’s various community programs.

The domestic partner provision adds the nation's capital to a roster of 115 local governments and the about one-third of Fortune 500 firms that offer benefits to employees and their unmarried partners, supporters said.

The domestic partner measure -- blocked by Congress since its passage by the D.C. Council in 1992 -- applies to gay and heterosexual couples, family caretakers and other relatives, and allows government workers to buy health insurance for partners and qualify for family leave to take care of partners.

All registered couples in the District can claim familial rights at hospitals, nursing homes and adoption agencies.

The measure passed the House in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks during a lull in partisan combat. It gained support from Democrats and from some House Republicans seeking to moderate their party's image.

 

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Companies are setting their sights on gay and lesbian consumers

A story published today by CNSNews.com reports that U.S. businesses are soliciting and focusing on gay and lesbian consumers. Companies that are successful in connecting to the targeted consumers are reporting profitable results.

According to an Internet-based consumer survey released by Syracuse University OpusComm Group, gay and lesbian consumers are typically affluent, well-educated professionals with money to spend.

The same survey revealed that same-sex couples have a median combined household income of almost 60 percent higher than the overall 1999 U.S. median income of $40,800.

In today's economy, marketers are more likely to risk losing some business through boycotts by groups opposed to gay and lesbian activism than sit back and risk losing this market to their competitors, pioneers of the gay and lesbian market report.

"We did face some rather strong opposition at one time by some religious political organizations," said Tim Kincaid, a spokesman for American Airlines, one of the first large U.S. companies to solicit gay and lesbian consumers.

"But in evaluating it, we stayed the course, and it turns out most every airline out there now is doing something, and not just the airlines, but many industries," Kincaid said.

While researchers report that the statistical measurement of the gay and lesbian population is difficult, studies suggest that about 5 percent of the U.S. population identifies itself as gay or lesbian. This population of men and women has a combined annual spending of between $250-$350 billion.

Companies that pioneered reaching out to gay and lesbian consumers in the 1990s say they no longer try to pigeonhole consumers at any level.

In 1994, Swedish furniture retailer Ikea stunned TV viewers with its ad featuring a male couple shopping at their local store.

Today, the company's ads don't target gays and lesbians as a specific group, a company spokeswoman said. "We were really focusing on people's life stages and, as we always do, we just seek to represent a broad spectrum of consumers," spokeswoman Mary Lunghi said.

General Motors' Saturn has a regular presence in gay and lesbian publications, though the ads are not tailored to a specific audience. Daimler Chrysler says it will begin soliciting business on gay and lesbian web sites early next year.

Former tennis star Martina Navratilova, who publicly declared her homosexuality in 1993, does commercials for Subaru.

But TV ads targeting gay and lesbian consumers continue to generate controversy, especially alcohol ads.

"The gay media practically wouldn't exist without liquor ads," one analyst said.

Last year, financial services conglomerate John Hancock created a stir with an ad featuring a female couple coming through U.S. immigration with an adopted Asian baby. "You'll make a great mom," one woman says. The other replies: "So will you." The tagline: "Insurance for the unexpected. Investments for the opportunities."

After protest by traditional family groups, the company took out the lines that referred to motherhood in the ad, which aired during the 2000 Summer Olympics.

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Supreme Court hears transsexual marriage case

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that an attorney for a transsexual told the state's highest court Tuesday that if the court doesn't declare her client’s marriage valid, it will create the impression it supports same-sex unions.

The Supreme Court is reviewing a dispute over the $2.5 million estate of Marshall Gardiner, a Leavenworth stockbroker and former newspaper reporter who died in 1999 without a will.

The outcome will determine whether his widow, J'Noel Gardiner, and his son, Joe Gardiner, will split the estate, or whether Joe Gardiner will claim it all.

Normally, the estate would be split evenly under Kansas law. But J'Noel Gardiner was a born a man and had sexual reassignment surgeries in 1994 and 1995. She married Marshall Gardiner in 1998, when she was 40 and Gardiner was 85.

Kansas has long refused to recognize same-sex marriages, and legislators enacted a 1996 law to reiterate that point. However, the law doesn't mention transsexuals.

Attorneys for Joe Gardiner said the definition of marriage included in Kansas law is a traditional one that doesn't include transsexuals. Attorney Bill Modrcin, of Kansas City, Mo., said the court should let the Legislature decide whether a marriage involving a transsexual is legal.

The case has received national attention, and groups on both sides filed legal briefs with the Supreme Court.

Though he acknowledged, "we may be 10 to 15 years ahead of our time," Krigel suggested that a ruling in J'Noel Gardiner's case would apply only to people who have undergone sexual reassignment surgery.

However, Modrcin said such a ruling would raise new issues about how the state determines gender before allowing a marriage.

"If two females show up and one says, 'I'm feeling particularly masculine today,' does the court grant them a license?" he said.

A Leavenworth County district judge declared that despite her surgery, J'Noel Gardiner remained a man and the marriage was invalid, a ruling in keeping with a Texas decision that the U.S. Supreme Court let stand last year.

But in May, the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled in J'Noel Gardiner's favor, saying that her sex at the time of marriage was the crucial issue. Advocacy groups for the transgendered praised the decision as a landmark. Joe Gardiner appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

 

Tuesday, December 4, 2001

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Albany lawmakers Ok's domestic partner health benefits to county employees

A story published today by the Albany Times Union reports that New York's Albany county legislature has unanimously approved a county operating budget which included the granting of medical health insurance for county employees and their domestic partners.

"I can't ever remember it happening this way,'' said Harold Joyce, an Albany Democrat who once served as majority leader and has held a seat in the legislature for more than 30 years.


The unanimous vote most likely derails a threat last week by County Executive Michael Breslin to veto some items in the $431.6 million budget as it was revised by the committee.

 

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Massachusetts group pushing to put gay marriage question in ballot

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a Massachusetts group that wants to ban gay marriages in the state said Tuesday that it has collected enough signatures to ask the state legislature to put the question before voters.

Bryan Rudnick of Massachusetts Citizens for Marriage said the group collected 110,000 signatures, far more than the required 57,100. Of the signatures collected, about 80,000 have already been certified by local town clerks, Rudnick said.

If ultimately approved by voters, the question would amend the state Constitution to define marriage in Massachusetts as a union between one man and one woman.

Activists called the question unconstitutional because it would deny gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. They are asking the state's highest court to block the question from the ballot.

The question would also prohibit the state from bestowing marriage-related benefits to unmarried couples, a move activists said would deny same-sex couples economic benefits available to heterosexual married couples.

Because the ballot question plans to change the state Constitution, the proposal must be voted and approved by at least 25 percent of lawmakers in two successive sessions before it can go before voters. The earliest it could appear on the ballot is 2004.

 

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New Hampshire couple will remain ‘class sweethearts’ in high school yearbook

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that two New Hampshire girls will be listed in their high school yearbook as "class sweethearts" after the superintendent Tuesday overruled the school principal and said same-sex couples were eligible for the title. Dover High School seniors overwhelmingly named Nicole Salisbury and Ashley Lagasse as "class sweethearts" when the yearbook staff conducted its annual survey to name students to categories such as "most artistic" or "nicest eyes."

But Dover High, principal Robert Pedersen said the ballots asked students to choose one male and one female for the "class sweethearts" category, and he declared the results invalid.

"I considered it unfair to change the rules and intent of the balloting after the event," Pedersen said in a statement. Students began collecting signatures for a petition before Superintendent Armand LaSelva stepped in, saying the original results would stand.

"Even if there was confusion about the ballot, the senior class members spoke," he said.

 

Monday, December 3, 2001

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Ohio lawmaker pushes bill to prohibit same-sex unions in Ohio

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that as certain marriage rights were extended to same-sex couples in the past few years, conservative groups and lawmakers in several states have worked to pass laws that would prohibit states from recognizing same-sex unions performed elsewhere.

"There's an urgency now. Previously gay marriage was theoretical, now it and its variations are being legitimized. The landscape has changed," said Rep. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Green Township who sponsored Ohio's so-called "Defense of Marriage Act." If passed, supporters and opponents agree that it would be the most sweeping in the nation.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says Ohio was one of at least nine states in 2001 with such measures pending. The constitutional bans on same-sex marriages are aimed at keeping states from recognizing all marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships or other similar relationships between same-sex couples.

The federal government and 36 states already have Defense of Marriage acts. While no states currently allow or recognize gay marriages, Vermont's civil union law, which went into effect in July 2000, offers homosexual couples many rights, benefits and responsibilities afforded to married heterosexual couples, including tax benefits and inheritance rights.

Mr. Seitz's bill in Ohio not only would ban same-sex couples from having a marriage status but also would allow marriage benefits to be afforded only to married couples.

"It would make Ohio one of the most unfriendly states certainly to same-sex couples but also to all unmarried couples," said Seth Kilbourn, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C.-based gay- rights organization. "It creates a very narrow definition of the word family."

The Ohio House overwhelmingly passed the measure in October. The bill goes to the Senate, which likely will not take it up until next year.

Opponents say the legislation is not needed in Ohio because the state constitution already clearly defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

"This bill is redundant, unnecessary and simply discrimination," said Jeff Redfield, co-chairman of the national Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Statewide Advocacy Organizations.

Saturday, December 1, 2001

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Detroit city councils edges closer to implementing domestic partner benefits for city employees

A story published today by the Detroit Free Press reports that after nearly six years of negotiations, confrontations and task force meetings, the Detroit City Council took the first step on Friday toward instituting domestic-partner benefits for city employees.

With a vote of 7-2, the City Council approved the first of four amendments to the city code to provide for the recognition and registration of domestic partnerships that will lead to full medical, disability and death benefits for gay, lesbian and transgender people working for the city. It also applies to opposite-sex domestic partners.

The council is expected to complete work on the proposed ordinances when members return from winter recess in January. At least three more ordinance changes need to be passed before domestic partners actually receive benefits.

"It is a benchmark, watershed event by the city," said Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel, who voted in favor of the proposal. "It is an acknowledgment of the importance of extending equal benefits for persons regardless of their sexual orientation. We are following suit, frankly, with other major cities; all the Big Three provide benefits for domestic partners. It's a seminal event in the city's public policy that we passed this."

It is unknown how many employees will register as being in a domestic partnership, according to the City Clerk's Office, which will maintain the registry. But studies of the issue estimate that 1 to 3 percent of employees are in domestic partnerships.

Friday's action covers nonunion employees. Unionized employees will have to bargain for the benefits in contract negotiations. The city has more than 17,000 employees, most covered by union contracts.

 

 

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