December 31, 2001
New California law poses dilemma
for same-sex partners
A story published today by the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the new California
state law that grants gay and lesbian employees the right to sick leave so they can care
for their ill partners comes with a hitch: the employees must reveal their sexual
The law, which takes effect tomorrow, domestic partners to register with the Secretary
of State before they can take advantage of the sick-time provision.
"This legislation started as a way to give gay and lesbian couples access to
benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy," said Tom Coleman, executive director of
the American Association for Single People in Glendale. "But it also forces them into
reveal their status, whether they want to or not."
State law already allows workers to take up to half of their company sick time to care
for illnesses involving immediate family members, such as spouses, children or parents.
The new law extends that right to domestic partners, who are defined as members of the
same sex who are at least 18 or older, or unmarried heterosexual couples with at least one
partner who is 62 or older.
But Alan LoFaso, chief of staff for Assemblywoman Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, who
authored the bill, said disclosure is important to prevent abuse.
"The reality is that if you want to exercise your rights in our society, you have
to explain some things," LoFaso said. "This is one of those cases where you have
to be open about your sexual preference in order to exercise your rights."
San Diego attorney Arlene Prater said she doubts that many companies will seek
verification of domestic partner status from their employees.
"I think it is most likely to happen in companies that have had abuse of their
sick-leave policies," she said. "I don' t think most employers want to be put in
Coleman of the American Association for Single People said that while the sick-time
provision was intended for same-sex couples, it was expanded to incorporate seniors who
might lose Social Security payments if they were to marry.
Coleman contends that up to 80 percent of all domestic partners are heterosexual
couples between the ages of 18 and 62.
"They are viewed to have marriage as the vehicle to get this benefit, but it' s
not right that you should have to get married just to get a right that others get,"
he said. "A large number of domestic partners will be excluded from using this
Christopher Hoffman, a San Diego employment attorney, suggests that the state' s new
law may cause some employers to suspend sick-leave policies and instead lump that time
into paid-time-off banks.
With such banks, employees are granted a combination of vacation time, holidays and
sick leave in one block of time, which they can use freely without explanation to an
A couple of other workplace laws take effect tomorrow include:
Unemployment insurance: The maximum weekly unemployment compensation benefit will rise
$40 to a maximum of $330 for new claims filed after Jan. 1. More $40 increases are
scheduled for 2003, 2004 and 2005, which will push the maximum weekly benefit to $450.
Unemployment benefits also are available for the first time to domestic partners who are
forced to relocate because of a partner' s move.
Insurance for domestic partners: Health-care plans and disability insurance carriers
are required to offer benefits to members' registered domestic partners if their employers
ask for those benefits. The benefits must be the same provided to other dependents.
Employment discrimination: Existing state law that prohibits employers from
discriminating against workers who have filed claims with the state labor commissioner has
been expanded to cover job applicants.
Sunday, December 30, 2001
Pennsylvania court backs visitation rights for non-biological parents
A story released today by the Pink Triangle Press reports that the Pennsylvania Supreme
Court has issued an opinion in a non-parent visitation case. The case involves the state's
in loco parentis doctrine and whether a lesbian non-biological parent can seek visitation
with a child she helped raise over the objections of the child's biological mother.
The state high court ruled that she can seek visitation with the child. The case will now
be sent back to the lower courts, which will use a "best interest of the child"
to determine if visitation will take place. The lawyer for the biological mother had
argued that because same-sex partners cannot marry, then the non-biological mother had no
standing to seek visitation.
The case is In T.B v. L.R.M. Five justices found in favor of granting visitation,
while two justices dissented.