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Domestic Partnership News Archive
February 01 - February 06, 2002




This page contains news for the period February 01, 2002 through February 06, 2002.




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Wednesday, February 6, 2002

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National Airlines introduces domestic partner benefits to employees

A story released today by Business Wire reports that National Airlines has introduced a Committed Partner Benefits program that will provide eligible same and opposite sex partners of employees with benefits, including: access to the Company's Employee Assistance Program, medical leave for serious illness of a partner, bereavement leave for the death of a partner, parental leave, and unlimited, fee-waived space available pass travel on National Airlines.

Kevin Tourek, senior vice president -- legal and human resources, said, "We are very pleased to be able to provide these additional benefits to employees and their eligible partners." He added, "We have always believed that to provide a quality product to our customers, we must first take care of our employees. This new program is another step in the development of our corporate culture, a culture that we take great pride in."

National Airlines currently employs approximately 1,500 people and serves Chicago Midway, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York JFK, Philadelphia and San Francisco with nonstop flights to and from its Las Vegas hub.

Tuesday, February 5, 2002

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Kansas appeals court upholds state’s anti-sodomy law

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Kansas state Court of Appeals has rejected a challenge to a state law punishing young adults who have sex with underage partners more harshly if those partners are of the same gender.

A three-judge panel ruled against Matthew R. Limon, who was seeking to overturn his sentence of 17 years and two months in prison for having sex with an underage boy in February 2000, when Limon was 18.

Had either the defendant, Limon or the other party been of the opposite sex, the maximum sentence would have been one year and three months in prison.

The case attracted the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued the law discriminates against homosexuals, and the DKT Liberty Project, a Washington group with a Libertarian philosophy, which said it represented gender discrimination.

But in an unsigned opinion issued Friday, Appeals Judges Henry W. Green Jr., David S. Knudson and G. Joseph Pierron Jr. said the U.S. Supreme Court has held that states may treat homosexual acts differently than heterosexual ones.

"Neither does this decision deal with the wisdom of the statute involved, as that is left to the Legislature in our governmental system, with its separation of powers," the appeals panel wrote.

Limon still may appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court.

The case is State v. Matthew R. Limon, No. 85,898.

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Red Cross sets aside fund for nontraditional families

A story published today by the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that the American Red Cross is setting aside $15 million of its terrorist attack relief fund to assist the Sept. 11 victims' extended families and domestic partners.

Red Cross officials announced Thursday that the fund would help nontraditional family members, which could include same-sex partners and fiances.

Red Cross chairman of the board, David McLaughlin said that it would disburse 90 percent of the fund by Sept. 11, 2002.

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Domestic partners of British parliament members given pension rights


A story published today by the Independent reports that same-sex and unmarried partners of U.K.’s Member of Parliaments and civil servants are to be given the same pension rights as married couples.

Under a legal change to be made by October, unmarried partners will be entitled to widow's or widower's pensions.

But teachers, soldiers and health service workers who are not being given the same benefits despite years of campaigning, accused the Government of hypocrisy and discrimination.

The National Union of Teachers said ministers were applying double standards. "We have become used to one rule applying to MPs and an entirely different set of rules for the rest of us," said a spokeswoman. The public service union Unison accused the Government of "discrimination against people who are living outside legal marriage".

Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat who has been leading the campaign for equality in the House of Commons, said the rights should be extended to all gay and unmarried people in the public sector.

"The change to the MPs' scheme will put further pressure on Members to ensure that less well-off workers such as those in the health service can have access to the same benefits," Mr. Harris said.

"It will send a strong signal to the private sector that they should also extend these rights." he added.

Monday, February 4, 2002

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Montana University system sued over denial of domestic partner benefits

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit Monday, contending the Montana university system violates the rights of its gay and lesbian employees by denying their partners health insurance and other benefits.

"We're not asking for special treatment, but to have the same access to health insurance that other couples have," said Carla Grayson, a professor at the University of Montana in Missoula. Grayson and partner Adrianne Neff are plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the state, the university system and its leaders.

Unmarried, heterosexual partners of state employees may obtain health insurance if they sign a statement of common-law marriage. The lawsuit filed in state District Court asks for an order requiring same-sex domestic partners of university system employees be given the same access to insurance and other benefits.

"This is a matter of basic fairness - of whether gay employees should be compensated less than straight employees for doing the same work," said Scott Crichton, ACLU executive director for Montana.

Equal protection of laws without regard to sexual orientation or marital status is guaranteed by the Montana Constitution, he said.

"The regents specifically considered this ... and the advice I gave them at that time was that I did not think they were under any legal compulsion to offer these benefits," said LeRoy Schramm, lawyer for the university system. "I don't think anything has happened in the last year that would require me to change my opinion."


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Doctors backing up same-sex parents

A story published today by the Beacon Journal reports that in 47 states, gay and lesbian parents are denied the parental rights that are available to heterosexuals.

Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics believes it's time for a change. Today, the academy is releasing a new position statement saying that children of same-sex couples deserve the protection of two legal guardians.

Dr. Barbara Howard, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health who practices in Baltimore, said those same issues concern pediatricians, too.

"Pediatricians are already seeing these kids who have parents in this situation,'' she said, "and they're in the position of not being able to treat them without the legal authority of the other parent, which is awkward and sometimes dangerous.''

As an advocate for children, a pediatrician's role goes beyond the examining room, Howard pointed out. Pediatricians are often asked to testify or offer advice in custody disputes.

The new policy statement helps to clarify the importance of the second parent, or what Howard refers to as the "psychological parent,'' because to a child, this person is a parent, regardless of legalities.

This statement, she said, is a medical, not a political, one.

"We're ensuring the rights of children who are already in these families,'' Howard said. "It's not that we're suggesting that homosexuals go out and adopt children -- although the implication is that it's not a harmful thing and there are plenty of children who need to be adopted.''

Gay rights advocates are hoping that the new stance by the Academy of Pediatrics will have some legislative effect.

"We hope that policy-makers will be influenced by it,'' said Patricia Logue, director of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund's Midwest office. "It's important for the general public who aren't familiar with our families... to hear that doctors are saying there's nothing to worry about.''

In forming its statement, the Academy of Pediatrics reviewed decades of research, Howard said.

Children raised by gay or lesbian parents "seem to develop normally in every way,'' the statement by the Academy of Pediatrics says. "... Parents' sexual orientation is not a variable that, in itself, predicts their ability to provide a home environment that supports children's developments.''

The research shows that children raised by gay parents are no more likely to be gay or have gender identification issues than children raised by heterosexuals, though children raised in a gay household are slightly more likely to have had at least one relationship with a member of the same sex. Howard said she suspects those children were just more likely to report the experience honestly, as opposed to children in traditional families.


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Couple struggles to find an affordable home

A story published today by the Contra Costa Time reports that Jenny Kung and Hanna Lu started living together in December and both are seriously planning to buy their own home together in the next few years. They've opened a joint checking account and credit card and are starting to share expenses for their home and meals.

While they have a unique set of circumstances because they're a same-sex couple, most of the financial issues they're facing are no different from those of heterosexual couples who are serious enough that they merge their assets but are not ready for marriage.

The biggest financial goal on their collective plate is buying the home. Right now, each owns her own in another city -- Lu has a condo in San Bruno, and Kung has a house in Sacramento -- that she's renting out. They'd like to keep those to generate income and use as fall-back residences and buy something together in one of Oakland's nicer neighborhoods, like Piedmont. But they're not sure how much house they can afford.

Kung and Lu met with Libby Mihalka, a fee-only financial planner in Livermore, to get advice on their money. After reviewing their assets, debt and spending, she determined that their goal of keeping their houses and buying a new one in an upscale neighborhood is out of their reach.

For starters, they don't have the money for a down payment, and it would be hard to use their homes to generate it. Right now, the rent they're charging just covers their mortgage payments, insurance and property tax.

Lenders like to see a 20 percent down payment, and they don't have that much to put down for a $500,000 house. They could get around that by putting down 10 percent and taking out a second mortgage to cover the remaining 10 percent -- known in the lending business as an 80/10/10 mortgage. But both of those would have high rates, and the couple probably doesn't even have the capital and combined income to qualify for such a loan.

To determine whether you can afford a particular mortgage, lenders typically want your monthly payment to be between 28 percent and 38 percent of your gross pay. Whether they approve you at the low end of that range or the high end depends on a host of factors, including the down payment, credit history, the level of other long-term debts, employment stability, and the economy.

"The problem is real estate is so expensive in this area," Mihalka said. "If we were in the Midwest, we could buy them a house for $100,000. We wouldn't be having this conversation."

In the meantime, Mihalka suggests Lu and Kung formally outline their expectations for their new living arrangement by drawing up a living-together agreement. It details what belonged to each partner before the relationship and what's owned jointly. That way, if they break up, it's clear who gets what.

It may seem unromantic to prepare for your break-up just after you've moved in together, but Mihalka stresses that couples look at this agreements as a way of clarifying expectations.

This type of accord is just as important for heterosexual couples as it is same-sex partners. It's somewhat like a prenuptial agreement for unmarried couples. These are even more important for unmarried couples because they aren't protected by family laws.

"It irons out all this stuff that can later on become so nasty," Mihalka said.

Saturday, February 2, 2002

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Minnesota House employees won’t get domestic partner benefits

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a Minnesota House panel has decided that gay and lesbian House employees won't have access to health benefits for their domestic partners.

The House Rules Committee approved an insurance package Friday that excludes same-sex domestic partner coverage. The Senate, however, adopted a domestic partner coverage for its own employees Tuesday, after it was included in the negotiated contracts for the two major state employee unions.

"The message I hear is one of lack of respect that is so troubling to me. We don't respect our colleagues," said Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis.

House Republican leaders argue that the offering discriminates against opposite-sex partners who live together and is an added expense in a time of budget trouble.

Friday, February 1, 2002

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Swedish court rules donor is legal dad of children

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a Swedish court has ruled that a 35-year-old Swedish man who privately donated his sperm to a lesbian couple is the legal father of the three children and must support them financially.

Anna Bjurling, the mother of the children - aged 10, seven and five - asked Igor Lehnberg to pay child support after the relationship with her partner ended last year.

A county administrative court yesterday ruled in her favor and ordered Lehnberg to pay child support of $US280 ($A555) a month.

Lehnberg challenged the decision by arguing in district court that he wasn't the legal father. But the court said a document Lehnberg had signed, stating that he was the biological father, was legally binding.

Lehnberg claimed he signed the document only so the children would know their origin, not to accept any responsibility for them.

Swedish law gives same-sex couples in a legal union most of the same rights and obligations as married couples, but they are not allowed to adopt children or undergo artificial insemination.



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