This page contains news for the period January 21, 2002 through January 28,
January 25, 2002
Georgia court rules civil unions are not marriage
A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a Georgia appeals
court has ruled that Vermont's civil unions law does not create a partnership equal to
marriage, the first test of the landmark law that gives some marriage rights to same-sex
The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Susan Freer and her lesbian partner
could not seek child-visitation rights because they are not married. The couple
established a civil union in Vermont in 2000.
A visitation agreement with her ex-husband, Darian Burns, forbids the children to stay
overnight with a parent who is living with someone to whom they are not married or
A judge severed her visitation rights in January 2001.
Mathew Staver, attorney for Burns, said Friday his client was elated by the ruling.
"He doesn't believe that lesbianism or homosexuality is appropriate to be
displayed in an overnight setting in front of his children," Staver said.
Freer had argued that the women consider themselves married and should be protected by
Georgia's right-to-privacy law.
Vermont's same-sex unions extend the rights and responsibilities of marriage to
same-sex couples, but are not recognized as legal marriages in any state. The Georgia
Legislature has barred recognition of same-sex marriage.
The case could still be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
British lawmakers oppose
A story published today by the Guardian Unlimited reports that a bill introduced to the
British parliament which would give cohabiting heterosexual and homosexual couples the
same legal rights as married couples came under fire from Tories and the bishops as it was
launched in the Lords today.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester of Herne Hill said his bid to remedy the lack of
protection for cohabiting couples in English law and to give couples the opportunity to
register a civil partnership, had broad public support.
But it was attacked during the second reading debate this morning as undermining the
institution of marriage.
Lord Lester introduced his backbench civil partnerships bill, saying he hoped it would
act as a "catalyst for a strongly positive response by the government so that we may
secure at long last equal protection for unmarried couples".
He said: "The bill enables men and women to come together to form a caring
relationship of mutual support protected by law.
Labor peer Lord Alli, arguing strongly in favor of the measure, said it was "not a
controversial bill, it's a compassionate bill".
Thursday, January 24, 2002
Domestic partner sues for
A story released today by PlanetOut.com reports that s 38-year-old who left her job in
Rochester, N.Y., to move to Virginia with her domestic partner has decided to fight for
unemployment benefits rather than take New York state's "no" for an answer.
On Friday morning, Jeanne Newland and lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union will
ask Administrative Law Judge Allan Hymes to reevaluate state policies that grant
unemployment benefits to individuals who quit their job in order to move with a spouse,
but deny those same benefits to men and women who relocate with their domestic partners.
Newland left her job on excellent terms after her partner, Natasha Doty, got a new
position in Richmond in late 2000. At first, the idea of applying for unemployment didn't
enter her mind.
After six months of unsuccessfully landing a job, a neighbor suggested that she might be
eligible for unemployment benefits. When Newland called the appropriate office in New
York, a woman on the other line explained that the decision to follow a domestic partner
was not considered "good cause" for leaving a job in New York state. If Newland
had been married, the benefits would be hers, the official said, adding that an exception
might be made if Newland was engaged to be married.
"And that," said Newland, "just didn't seem right, didn't seem fair. So I
thought that maybe I could talk to someone to see if maybe anyone else agreed that someone
should take a look at this."
In a 10-page legal memorandum, the ACLU bolsters its argument by citing the New York Court
of Appeals opinion in the case of a man fighting eviction from the rent-controlled
apartment he shared with his dead partner.
Statutes, wrote the court in that 1989 case, "are ordinarily interpreted so as to
avoid objectionable consequences and to prevent hardship or injustice." The term
"family," the court continued, "includes two adult lifetime partners whose
relationship is long term and characterized by an emotional and financial
British conservative party relaxes
stand on same-sex couples rights
A story released today by the BBC News reports that Britains Conservative Party
has signaled a change in its approach to gay and lesbian issues by calling for same-sex
partners to be given some of the legal rights held by married couples.
The shift, part of the ongoing Tory drive to rehabilitate itself with the electorate,
was praised by former party vice-chairman Steven Norris as a welcome step forward after
the tone set during the Hague years.
Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said the Conservatives believe in marriage on
practical grounds because it protects children but same-sex couples who could not marry
had real grievances.
He wants issues to be addressed such as the right to be consulted if one partner needed
a life-threatening operation, as well as rights to inherit assets or the tenancy of homes.
Politicians should not pontificate on morality, argued Mr. Letwin, who said his
proposals were for practical, not moral reasons.
The Tory peer has, however, launched an attack on a bill that would give same-sex and
unmarried heterosexual couples many of the same legal rights as married people.
The bill, proposed by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester and backed by gay rights group
Stonewall, would see the establishment of "civil partnerships", provides for the
registration of the partnership and sets out the ensuing legal consequences.
Currently the rights enjoyed by married couples, such as the automatic right of
inheritance in the event of a spouse dying or the right of succession to certain tenancies
and to pension funds, are denied to non-married couples.
Lord Lester said: "The Bill enables men and women to come together to form a
caring relationship of mutual support protected by law.
"It provides a fair and appropriate remedy for different family situations."
Lord Williams of Mostyn, the leader of the Lords, said that the government would
"look very carefully" at the implications of setting up a scheme of civil
But Baroness Young said the bill makes civil partnerships "indistinguishable from
marriage in virtually all respects".
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said he welcomed the fact that the
Tories had "realized that their previous policy on same sex couples was inadequate
"But their new position is clearly nonsense," he said.
"If Tories were either up to date or committed to civil rights they would, without
compromising the sanctity and status of marriage, support the Liberal Democrat Civil
Virginia Housing Authority retreats
from unwed couples loan proposal
A story released today by the Washington Post reports that Virginia's housing authority
today killed a plan to extend state loans to same-sex and other unmarried couples by
allowing them to pool their money to buy a home.
The proposal had drawn fierce opposition from conservative activists but had the
support of Gov. Mark R. Warner (D).
Instead, the Virginia Housing Development Authority proposed rules to extend loans to
single parents and make mortgages more accessible to the disabled and elderly, in an
effort to make the program more broadly available.
"It's a compromise, an effort to come down somewhere in the middle and get us
closer to meeting the affordable housing needs of the state," said Art Bowen, the
agency's director of public policy.
Advocates for gay rights who attended today's meeting said they were disappointed that
the authority backed away from its initial proposal.
William H. Leighty, Warner's chief of staff, had urged the board to extend the loan
program to gay couples. But the board members, all but one of whom are appointees of
former governor James S. Gilmore III (R), voted 6 to 1 to consider the revised rules. A
final vote on the policy is expected this spring after a public hearing, officials said.
"We think it's important that the state continue its 300-year history of endorsing
and encouraging marriage, which has the ability to procreate," said Victoria Cobb,
director of legislative affairs for the Richmond-based Family Foundation, which lobbied
against changes to the family rule.
By allowing unmarried couples to receive loans, the state would put itself at financial
risk, Cobb said: If a relationship breaks up, there is no guarantee, as there would be in
the case of divorce, that the loan would be repaid.
Del. Ryan T. McDougle (R-Hanover) filed a bill last week to write the family rule into
state law. House Bill 1306 would go further than the housing agency's proposal today,
prohibiting single parents from buying homes together.
Warner's spokeswoman, Ellen Qualls, declined to say whether Warner, despite his support
for an expanded loan policy, would veto the McDougle bill. She called eliminating the
family rule "the right thing to do."
"It would make homeownership possible for more Virginians, and that's the mission
of the Housing Development Authority," she said.
Domestic partner fighting to get a
share of Sept. 11 fund
A story released today by the Newsday.com reports that Millie Cabrera and Pedro Checo
had all the trappings of marriage - two sons; a jointly-owned Bayside apartment; a shared
life but the couple had not taken the final step to marriage.
But since Pedro Checo was killed Sept. 11 on the 96th floor of Tower Two, Millie
Cabrera wishes they'd had a quick ceremony at Queens Borough Hall. It would have made
things much, much easier.
Instead, Cabrera, 33, has had to "fight tooth and nail," as she puts it, to
prove her relationship with Checo, who was an archivist for Fiduciary Trust. Charities
have put her "through hell," she says.
And Cabrera's lawyer, Helen Macfarlane, fears her client won't be able to collect from
the federal victims compensation fund. Macfarlane, who works in the Manhattan office of
Shearman & Sterling, is among those representing World Trade Center victims pro bono.
Last week, she wrote a letter to the compensation fund asking that its rules be changed to
help people like Cabrera.
Under proposed rules of the federal compensation fund, domestic partners in states such
as New York that do not recognize common law marriage will most likely not be eligible for
New York Governor, George Pataki and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has already filed
formal objections urging the fund's Special Master Kenneth Feinberg to recognize domestic
partners - a term that includes both common-law spouses and same-sex partners.
Because the federal fund will be guided by state law, common-law spouses who lived in
Pennsylvania would be entitled to money, while those from New York will not, Macfarlane
West Hollywood to sever ties with
A story published today by the Los Angeles Independent reports that West Hollywood has
passed a resolution denouncing F&A Federal Credit Union for denying a West Hollywood
employee from opening an account with her domestic partner. The city is now looking into
possibilities of contracting with other credit unions for its staff.
"I'm overjoyed," said West Hollywood city receptionist Noosha Szutzer.
"It was a horrible situation and they were very demeaning and offensive to us and I
am glad something will be done about it so that no one has to go through that again."
Lengthy communication took place between West Hollywood and the F&A Federal Credit
Union, and now the city of Los Angeles is also exploring in severing ties.
F&A's chairman of the board of directors, Arthur Moncrief, stated in a Nov. 29
letter that the field of membership definition did not include domestic partners, who are
considered household members rather than immediate family.
Human resources manager Lunita Rodriguez says they are at an early phase of gathering
information about credit unions and forming a committee to discuss options.
Rodriguez says they have come up with a list of credit unions that will provide the
service that F&A would not.
West Hollywood councilman Jeffrey Prang says that it is "painfully clear that this
is homophobia, painfully clear." He says F&A legally could extend the benefits
but made a personal choice not to.
"I was outraged to think that in the face of overwhelming evidence, and a request
from a client city, that they would say sorry we are not going to do it, we're all nice
people, we just don't want you," Prang says.
Wednesday, January 23, 2002
Liverpool, England planning to
introduce partnership registry
A story released today by Queercompany.com reports that Liverpool, England has become
the latest English city to announce plans for a same-sex partnership register.
The City council has yet to vote on the proposal, but if it goes through it will follow
the system that has proved so popular in London.
London's partnership register was introduced by Mayor Ken Livingstone last September.
Officials in Liverpool are hoping to open the same-sex partnership register by the end of
Aside from Liverpool, the cities of Brighton, Hove, Manchester and Newcastle are
currently looking at setting up same-sex partnership registers. The British government is
also currently examining to introduce a legally binding same-sex partnership registry.
Tuesday, January 22, 2002
British unmarried couples to get
right to adopt
A story published today by The Independent (U.K.) says an all-party amendment to the
Adoption and Children Bill is to be tabled when it returns to the House of Commons.
Under the current law only married couples or single people are allowed legally to
adopt. Partners of unmarried people who have successfully adopted do not have full
The amendment will allow couples who haven't married to legally adopt if they can prove
they are in a permanent and stable relationship.
People must be aged over 21 and long-term provision must be in place for the adopted
child if one of the couple leaves.
Tory MP Andrew Lansley, who is one of the sponsors of the amendment, says it was
designed to open up opportunities for couples and to help find homes for children in care.
"The cross-party amendment is intended to extend the law to unmarried couples.
Notwithstanding that marriage is the best circumstance to bring up a child, modern society
understands that many unmarried couples are able to provide stable and loving homes for
children." said Lansley.
"I will be putting a further amendment, which will define unmarried couples as a
man and a woman living together in a stable relationship." he added.
Massachusetts lawyers to boycott
state bar dinner
A story published today by the Boston Business Journal reports that the
Massachusetts Bar Association's decision to honor State Rep. John Rogers (D-Norwood), the
sponsor of a controversial bill to prohibit same-sex marriages, has divided the legal
Several of Massachusetts largest law firms have told a lesbian and gay lawyers'
group they will not purchase tables at the association's annual dinner this Friday,
because it will honor Rogers, who chairs the house Ways and Means Committee, as the bar
association's Legislator of the Year. The association's choice has drawn a firestorm of
criticism from the Partners Group, which consists of 40 lesbian or gay partners of large
firms and senior lawyers in business and government. The Partners Group objects to Rogers'
sponsorship of House Bill 3375, which would invalidate same-sex marriages, said Joseph
Barri, a senior partner at Hale and Dorr LLP and a member of the group.
Barri said besides Hale and Dorr, nine other firms are not buying tables: Bingham Dana
LLP; Casner & Edwards LLP; Foley, Hoag & Eliot LLP; Goulston & Storrs PC;
Palmer & Dodge LLP; Peabody & Arnold LLP; Perkins Smith & Cohen LLP; Ropes
& Gray; Sullivan & Worcester LLP; and Testa Hurwitz & Thibeault LLP.
Earlier this month, the state bar association's president, Carol DiMento sent a letter
to the membership defending the association's choice of Rogers. DiMento's letter said that
while the association opposes the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, it is unwilling to
use it as a litmus test in selecting the legislator of the year.
DNC supports domestic partner inclusion in Social Security
A story released today by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force reports that the task
force is hailing the Democratic National Committee for passing a resolution that calls for
equal treatment of same-sex partners under Social Security.
The resolution was passed at the DNC winter meeting in Washington, DC, states simply
that "Social Security would be strengthened if same-sex partners were treated
"In taking this historic and precedent-setting step, the Democratic National
Committee has committed itself to equality for same-sex partners," said Lorri L.
Jean, executive director of NGLTF. "Currently, our inability to access survivor
benefits costs same-sex surviving partners approximately $100 million a year. We pay into
the Social Security system our entire lives, yet in retirement we are denied funds to
which we are entitled."
In a 1997 Princeton Survey Research Associates poll, 57 percent of Americans polled
supported "equal rights for gays in terms of social security benefits for gay
"The tragedy on September 11th demonstrated the inequality of same-sex
relationships in vivid detail as the surviving same-sex partners of those who died found
themselves unable access the same benefits as heterosexual surviving partners,"
continued Jean. "This discrimination is wrong. Social Security and other programs
need to be broadened to include access for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender
Colombia moves slowly on domestic
A story released by IPS News reports that Colombians will have to wait until the next
legislative session for lawmakers to vote on the issue of legalizing same-sex couples, and
whether inheritance rights and social security benefits should be amended to include
If the bill survives the numerous parliamentary hurdles on the way to becoming a law,
it would benefit approximately two million Colombians, half of whom live in stable
relationships, according to social researcher José Fernando Serrano.
The legislation, which also covers inheritance rights and prison visit rights, was
approved by the First Senate Commission. The full session of Congress is slated to take up
the measure during the next legislative session, which begins in March.
Senator Córdoba, also a human rights activist, commented that the bill she proposed
responds to the fact that in this country of 40 million people, "in nearly all
households there is a homosexual, whether it is a son or daughter, aunt or uncle, or
However, the legislative initiative has run up against strong opposition, with some
politicians referring to gay couples as "pseudo-families".
Justice Minister Rómulo González Trujillo objected to the gay rights bill saying it
violates Article 42 of the Constitution, which consecrates the family as a heterosexual
The Constitutional Court utilized the same argument in rejecting the petitions of
homosexuals seeking to adopt children or to register a partner for health insurance
The court did not recognize these rights because homosexual couples, as such, "are
not families" and therefore may not claim the same benefits, according to the ruling.
"In Colombia, one can be homosexual, but must be quiet about it," said Manuel
José Bermúdez, a leftist candidate for the Senate in the mid- 2002 elections.
The candidate for Senate says Congress is unlikely to pass a law that allows same-sex
legal unions because the debate has entered the moral arena, meaning the Catholic Church
could step in and block legislative action on the bill.
"It is a legal debate, not a moral one, which is why the discussion must be taken
out of bed, out from between the sheets, and placed among civil rights," Bermúdez