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Domestic Partnership News Archive
January 14 - January 20, 2002




This page contains news for the period January 14, 2002 through January 20, 2002.




<<   January 2002  >>

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Friday, January 19, 2002

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Connecticut revisits same-sex unions

A story published today by the New Britain Herald reports that the agenda at Connecticut’s legislative Judiciary Committee on Friday saw the introduction of a proposed bill that would allow same-sex marriages and the extension of certain rights to same-sex couples.

The committee's action virtually assures that the bills will at least get a public hearing during the legislative session that kicks off Feb. 6.

Two committee members, Deputy Speaker of the House Wade A. Hyslop Jr., D-New London, and state Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, said they opposed the bills pertaining to same sex couples, but would vote to consider them out of respect for their colleagues.

Kissel noted that the committee held an informational hearing on granting legal rights to same-sex couples last year that attracted dozens of impassioned speakers from both sides of the issue. He added that this year is the legislature's short session and implied that lawmakers might not have time for such a lengthy debate.

"People have very strong opinions one way or another on this particular issue," Kissel said.

But the co-chairman of the committee, State Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, D-East Haven, said he believes the hearing showed that people are ready to accept the idea of legal rights for same-sex couples. "I think most people have calmed down a lot about this issue," Lawlor said. "I think people know this issue better."

The veteran lawmaker predicted that the same-sex marriage proposal would fail, but gave the bill granting some rights to same-sex couples an excellent chance of passing.

There are 588 state statutes that apply to married couples, and the legislature needs to sort out which should also apply to same-sex couples, Lawlor said. Some obvious choices are laws dealing with inheritance, hospital visitation and the partners of state employees bound by state ethics rules, Lawlor said.

Thursday, January 17, 2002

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University of Alabama rejects same-sex health benefits

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the University of Alabama has decided not to offer health benefits to same-sex couples citing financial reasons for the decision.

The plan would have allowed employees to place their same-sex domestic partners on their health insurance coverage. The plan would not have covered unmarried heterosexual couples.

"We did our homework so we could do our best to calculate the costs." said Robert Wright, the university's vice president for financial affairs.

He said the costs could not be justified when the university is facing cutbacks, and employees might not get pay increases because of budget cuts.

Wright said allowing same-sex benefits probably would have added between $75,000 and $300,000 to the university's annual $14 million health insurance costs. Between 15 and 20 employees were expected to take advantage of the plan.

Premiums for the university's health coverage increased by 10 percent this year and are expected to rise another 10 percent next year.

Wythe Holt, a law professor and member of the Faculty Senate, said that although he is disappointed with the decision, he is aware of the university's financial worries.

"I can understand at this time the university's resources are not in good shape," he said. "I see this as a blow, but not a defeat."

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

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Riverside county board approves domestic partner benefits


A story published today by the Desert Sun reports that California’s Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to extend health benefits to domestic partners of county employees.

"The definition of family here in the U.S. is changing, and this decision recognizes that," said Gene Touchet, a gay rights activist and Cathedral City resident.

The board’s decision was spurred by recent new rights for domestic partners signed into law by California Gov. Davis.

"It was a matter of equal protection under the law," 4th District Supervisor Roy Wilson said. "We felt that since the state now requires those benefits, we should extend them as well."

The county’s new policy will take effect April 1. Same-sex partners as well as heterosexual partners over age 62 qualify, and to receive benefits employees must be registered as domestic partners with the state.

The change will cost the county $39,500 a year -- a minimal amount compared to the county’s multibilliondollar budget, Wilson said.

About 4,360 U.S. employers offer domestic partner health benefits, according to the Human Rights Campaign. More than 150 of those are Fortune 500 companies, and more than 125 are state and local governments. Locally, several cities in Riverside County offer the benefits to employees, including Palm Springs and Cathedral City.

"It’s been a real good thing for us," said Cathedral City Councilman Greg Pettis. "It shows the staff that we care about them and their families. It helps retain employees, and it also helps us attract new employees."


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Portland, Oregon fund board pushing to extend same-sex benefits

A story published today by the Oregonian reports that the Portland Fire and Police Disability and Retirement Fund's board moved one step closer Tuesday toward extending pension benefits to same-sex domestic partners of city police officers and firefighters.

The fund's board of trustees, in a unanimous vote, directed the City Council to draft an ordinance that would change the city charter and allow gay and lesbian partners of police and firefighters to be eligible to collect pension benefits should their partners be killed in the line of duty.

The vote came after board members heard from two attorneys, Portland lawyer Carl Kiss and Deputy City Attorney Tracy Reeve, who agreed that not to extend the benefits would violate the state constitution's equal protection clause.

Same-sex couples would likely have to be on a domestic-partner registry, such as the one Multnomah County adopted in 2000, to verify their relationships.

To register, partners would affirm that they are not related by blood, live together and intend to remain as each other's sole partners indefinitely. To be eligible to collect a partner's pension benefits, the domestic partners would likely have to have been together for at least one year. Those details, however, have yet to be worked out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

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California civil union bill fails to garner support

A story released today by CNSNews.com reports that efforts to bring homosexual marriage to California apparently collapsed late Monday as support for a controversial civil union bill fell short, even among moderate lawmakers.

Co-authored by 14 Democrats, AB 1338 -- The California Family Protection Act -- would have given homosexual couples an estimated 1,500 marriage-related benefits, including the ability to make medical decisions on behalf of a partner, file joint state tax returns, sue for wrongful death and share property titles.

Democratic Assemblyman Paul Koretz, who introduced the measure last year, said his bill is postponed, not dead. He plans to table the legislation so he'll have more time to gather the 41-votes he needs to move the bill out of the 80-member Assembly and into the state Senate.

"This bill is still a priority for me. I will re-introduce this bill over and over until it's passed," Koretz said. "There is a lot of educating that still needs to be done, and this allows us time to do that."

"The voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 22 to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage," said State Senator Pete Knight. "This bill plays word games to skirt Prop.22 and legalize same-sex marriage under a different name."

Even so, Koretz said when voters approved Prop. 22, they were not seeking to disallow rights to homosexual couples, but only sought to protect an institution that for many is of religious importance.

"Same sex couples deserve equal treatment, legal recognition of their families; the same legal recognition that my wife and I were granted when we committed our lives to each other," Koretz said.

However, observers on both sides of the issue said it was unlikely that AB 1338 will go anywhere this year, especially in a statewide election year.


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Norwegian minister marries domestic partner


A story published today by the Las Vegas Sun reports that Norway’s Finance Minister Per-Kristian Foss has married his partner, becoming the first member of a Norwegian government to enter a binding domestic partnership.

Under a 1993 law, gays and lesbians can enter legal partnerships with all the rights and obligations of marriage, except adoption and church weddings.

Foss, a Conservative, married long-term partner Jan Erik Knarbakk in a ceremony at the Norwegian Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden.

"Yes, we entered a partnership at the embassy in Stockholm on Friday, Jan. 4," Foss told the Norwegian business newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv. "But beyond that, it is a private matter."

Foss is a member of a three-party coalition government led by Lutheran clergyman Kjell Magne Bondevik of the Christian Democratic party, which opposes homosexual marriages.

Foss was living with his partner when he joined the government and it was not an issue in his appointment to the powerful post of finance minister.

Norwegians are broadly tolerant of homosexuals and traditionally respect the private lives of public figures so the wedding was simply noted briefly, without comment, by the news media.

About 100 couples a year enter domestic partnerships in the capital city of Oslo.

Monday, January 14, 2002


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California lawmaker lambastes bill that supports same-sex marriages

A story released today by KCRA News reports that California Senator Pete Knight and his supporters threw down a legislative gauntlet Monday against gay marriages.

"We have disrupted the basic unit of society," Knight said.

Knight is talking about AB 1338 -- an Assembly bill that would create "civil unions" for gay couples, affording them the same rights as married couples, which he says threatens to undo Proposition 22 -- an initiative he sponsored to define "marriage" as only that between a man and a woman.

"AB 1338 would reject the people of California and drastically cheapen marriage," Campaign for California Families spokesman Randy Thomasson said.

If the bill passes the legislature and gets signed into law, Knight and his supporters said that they would file a lawsuit.

"Being denied all the benefits that help you and your husband take care of your kids is an unbelievable insult," said activist Sam Catalano. "I find it distasteful that this man is continuing his crusade of divisiveness."

That's why the author of the bill, Assemblyman Paul Koretz of Hollywood said it's time gay unions became legal.

"Let's not change the institution of marriage, but let's provide the rights and responsibilities of same sex couples, and end the discrimination against them," bill author Paul Koretz said.

Koretz said that Vermont already recognizes same-sex civil unions, and that he is hopeful that California will be next.

"I know either this year, next year or a couple years down the road, this concept will pass," Koretz said.


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Focus on Family founder attacks California same-sex marriage bill

A story released today by U.S. Newswire reports that in a nationwide radio broadcast Monday, Focus on the Family President James C. Dobson, Ph.D., joined by Family Research Council President Ken Connor and Alliance Defense Fund President Alan Sears, called on Christians to register opposition to a proposed piece of legislation in California that would change the nature of marriage in California and across the nation.

Dobson, heard by 7.5 million listeners each week, told his audience the bill would overturn the will of Californians. In March of 2000, 61 percent of California voters supported Proposition 22, declaring that marriage should be exclusively between a man and a woman. He added that what is happening in California will eventually travel to other states, and that the California Legislature is now "completely out of control" when it comes to issues affecting families.

"The California Legislature has been captured, almost without opposition, by those who hold a gay and lesbian philosophy and by a governor -- Gray Davis -- who has signed into law a host of pro-homosexual bills revolutionizing that state," Dobson said. "The result is a tsunami, a tidal wave, of anti-family and immoral legislation that is rapidly forcing the citizens of California to accept and live by an alien system of values that would never be approved if put to the voters."

Sears, a former federal prosecutor and the administrator of the legal-defense organization known as the Alliance Defense Fund, said the creation of civil unions would not only reconfigure the face of marriage, but would also punish those people who do not willingly go along with its demands.

"(The bill) says that clergy cannot be forced to perform a civil union, yet religious organizations who employ (people) in non-clergy positions person must recognize civil unions, provide for them in health insurance and other benefit packages, and those who don't comply will be punished,"

Sears said. "The (homosexual) agenda is not about tolerance; it is about silencing and forcing compliance with the rigid demands of the homosexual lobby."

Dobson, Sears and Connor predicted that the enactment of civil unions would lead to the legal recognition of group marriage and other non-traditional relationships.

"If marriage means everything, it means absolutely nothing," Dobson said.


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Connecticut debate on same-sex marriages resurfaces

A story published today by the Hartford Courant reports that supporters of gay marriage are girding for a confrontation at the Connecticut state Capitol.

A number of measures granting some form of legal recognition to gay and lesbian couples probably will be broached during the coming legislative session. And, unlike last year's informal hearing on the emotionally charged topic, the discussion will be more than theoretical.

"We're well beyond the point of asking whether we want to have same-sex couples in the state," said Rep. Michael Lawlor, co-chairman of the powerful judiciary committee and a supporter of gay marriage. "They're here. Now the time has come for the legislature to start establishing rules."

Given the legislature's preoccupation with fiscal concerns and the fact that this is an election year, gay rights activists acknowledge that they might not reach their goal by the end of the session. But they express confidence that their quest for legal validation ultimately will be successful.

"Laws are created to protect the common good," said Marie T. Hilliard, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference, "not to confer legal recognition on those who seek it."

For all sides, the issue is intensely emotional. That much was evident last March, when the judiciary committee held an informational hearing on the subject. Even though no bill had been submitted, more than 300 people sat through nearly six hours of testimony.

Gay rights activists view marriage as a milestone on the road to full equality. Marriage permits partners to receive tax and inheritance benefits, for example, and gives them the right to make medical decisions on behalf of one another. Without it, activists say, same-sex partners essentially are legal strangers.

"It's not just about marriage," said Seth Kilbon, national field director with the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group. "It's about recognizing gay and lesbian families."

Hilliard disputed the notion that same-sex couples need legal recognition to gain such rights. "The law already addresses these issues," she said. Moreover, "to take the leap that, because people perceive - and I would claim erroneously - that there are roadblocks, we should change how society has defined marriage, is to take a huge leap."



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