Riverside county board approves
domestic partner benefits
A story published today by the Desert Sun reports that Californias 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
The boards 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 countys 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
countys 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.
"Its 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."
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.
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
"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.
Norwegian minister marries domestic
A story published today by the Las Vegas Sun reports that Norways 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
About 100 couples a year enter domestic partnerships in the capital city of Oslo.
Monday, January 14, 2002
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.
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.
Connecticut debate on same-sex
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
"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