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Domestic Partnership News Archive
March 14 - March 20, 2002




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



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Tuesday, March 19, 2002


Civil rights group not to pursue same-sex adoption case in Nebraska


A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the American Civil Liberties Union said Monday it will not challenge a court ruling that thwarted an attempt by a same-sex couple to adopt a child.

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled March 8 in the case of a Lincoln woman who wants her female partner to adopt her son.

The court ruled that the boy cannot be adopted because the mother has not relinquished her parental rights. However, the court avoided deciding if same-sex couples are prohibited from adopting in Nebraska.

ACLU officials, after meeting with the women, decided over the weekend against asking the court to reconsider the ruling.

''They just want to get on with their lives,'' said Tim Butz, executive director of ACLU in Nebraska. ''They are going to relocate to a state that will allow them to form the family that they want.''

Deputy Attorney General Steve Grasz said the ruling does not necessarily preclude a couple from adopting a child whose parent or parents already have relinquished parental rights.

Grasz argued that the mother's lover has no legal rights to adopt the child, even though she has helped raise him.

While Nebraska law contains no specific provision prohibiting adoptions by same-sex couples, Grasz said that does not mean it is legal.


Monday, March 18, 2002


Connecticut unlikely to tackle civil unions this legislative session

A story published today by the Hartford Courant reports that same-sex couples won’t probably be granted a license to marry this year, but they could gain a host of legal rights and responsibilities long associated with marriage.

Rep. Michael Lawlor, co-chairman of the legislature's judiciary committee, predicted there would be broad support for a measure to expand the rights of same-sex couples without delving into the more contentious question of gay marriage.

"I think there's a willingness to acknowledge that a variety of state laws could be adjusted," said Lawlor, a Democrat from East Haven. "If that's where everyone is right now, why not go ahead and do it?"

Gay and lesbian activists say there are about 588 state statutes that mention marital status. Most of them concern relatively esoteric matters, "paperwork stuff," Lawlor said.

The bill is still being crafted. But Lawlor said it may include provisions that would allow gays and lesbians hospital access to ailing partners, the right to be treated as a crime victim if one's partner is murdered and control of a dead partner's bank safety deposit box, among other matters.

Not all of the items under consideration are benefits. The bill would also likely require the same-sex partners of legislators to comply with the same ethics rules that govern their married colleagues, Lawlor said.

Opponents say they object to any legislation that would extend the rights and responsibilities of marriage to gay couples, even if the measure stops well short of marriage.

If approved, Connecticut would follow California, which last year enacted a law that dramatically expanded the rights of same-sex partners. Vermont has gone one step further by permitting gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions, marriage-like partnerships recognized by the state.

Activists in Connecticut said they had hoped the General Assembly would become the first legislature in the nation to approve full and equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Given the briefness of the legislative session, and a budget crisis that has dominated the agenda, it seems unlikely there will be time for a lengthy debate on the marriage issue. "We recognize in a short session we're not going to get what we were hoping to get," said Anne Stanback, president of Love Makes a Family, a coalition of organizations and individuals working to expand Connecticut's marriage laws.



Planning ahead your future

A story published today by the Times reports that thanks to the high rate of divorce and the number of women from the baby-boom generation who chose careers over marriage, many are starting in their 50s, while they're still healthy planning for their retiring years. Some are buying homes in retirement communities that have plenty of health-care services. Others are fostering networks of younger family members and neighbors willing to help out if they become ill. Many are designating friends or siblings who will eventually dispose of their homes and treasured possessions. Some are even planning their funeral, right down to the number of limousines and the type of food served at the postburial reception.

One of the first things anyone without kids should learn before planning an estate is the difference between a will and a trust, says David Lockwood, partner in the Greenwood Village, Colo., law firm Engel Reiman & Lockwood.

So-called revocable trusts have many advantages over traditional wills for people whose most important relationships are likely to change over time. Revocable trusts allow you to place most of your assets-such as bank accounts, stocks and real estate-into a fund you control for the benefit of whomever you designate. You must indicate when you set up the trust who will receive each of those assets, but you can change the terms at any time.

A trust, unlike a traditional will, is not subject to probate expenses should there be any disputes among beneficiaries. For married couples, any assets left to a surviving spouse are not taxed under current federal law. But if your estate is worth more than $1 million, whatever your spouse leaves to a survivor is then subject to estate tax, which can be as high as 55%, says Sally Merrell, partner with the Milwaukee law firm Quarles & Brady LLP.

Merrell points out that people without children have one big advantage when it comes to estate planning: they get to leave whatever they want to whomever they choose. "If you have two children, you may feel compelled to leave equal amounts of money to each one-even if you are a lot closer with one kid," says Merrell. "But if you have a nephew who is a dear and a niece who isn't, you probably wouldn't be too concerned about leaving more money to that nephew."

Another critical ingredient in estate planning is granting a power of attorney, says David Tysk, senior financial adviser with American Express Financial Advisors in Bloomington, Minn. The person you designate--a relative, friend or neighbor--will be able to pay your bills and handle related matters if you become ill. In conjunction with a power of attorney, you should have a health-care proxy that states your medical wishes.

Planning for health care, in fact, is just as important as planning your estate. People without kids need to prepare for that major, life-altering illness long before it happens or before they start to see changes in their health, says Rose Glamoclija, registered nurse and owner of Boca Nursing Services, a Boca Raton, Fla., geriatric-care agency. "If you get to the point where you're alone and suffer a stroke, it's too late," says Glamoclija.

One option is to move into a retirement community that offers health-care support services. "Your dream may be to retire to the country, but you don't want to live in the middle of nowhere and have your only friend and neighbor be a squirrel," says Barbara Flom of the Chicago law firm Goldberg, Kohn, Bell, Black, Rosenbloom & Moritz Ltd., most of whose clients are childless.

A geriatric-care agency can place weekly or twice-weekly calls and visit you monthly if you have health concerns. These organizations can also help you find alternative housing, such as assisted living, should you need it.


Sunday, March 17, 2002


Delaware commissioner paints broad interpretation on child support

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the state of Delaware has joined a handful of states breaking legal ground in child support with a court ruling that two women should both be considered parents of a 4-year-old boy to whom one gave birth after in-vitro fertilization.

The women, who have separated, are identified in court papers by the pseudonyms of Karen Chambers, the birth mother, and Carol Chambers.

Karen sought mandatory child support after Carol was awarded permanent visitation rights.

Carol, who says she helped pay for the fertility treatments and pays voluntary child support, argued that the state should not force her to pay because she has no biological or adoptive connection to the child and because Delaware does not recognize same-sex couples.

Family Court Commissioner John Carrow rejected Carol's arguments and ordered both sides to attend a child support hearing Monday.

"This is a very new area of law," said Tiffany Palmer, legal director at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights in Philadelphia. "These are important cases because they reinforce that rights and responsibilities go hand-in-hand."

Karen's attorney, Michael Corrigan, said Carrow's ruling is a broad interpretation of the Delaware Parentage Act.

"It takes a very liberal reading of the statute, there's no question, to say it can apply to something other than a biological or adoptive mother or father," Corrigan said.


Friday, March 15, 2002


Kansas high court upholds original definition of marriage in state

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that the state doesn't consider a marriage between a man and a transsexual woman valid.

The ruling came in the case of J'Noel Gardiner, whose right to inherit half of her late husband's estate was challenged because she was born a man.

The Kansas Supreme Court's ruling means Gardiner can't inherit the property.

Kansas law declares same-sex marriages invalid, but doesn't specify whether the same applies to marriages involving transsexuals.

In a unanimous opinion, the justices say state lawmakers made it clear they recognize only traditional marriages between "two parties who are of the opposite sex."




Renewed optimism seen in UK's domestic partner adoption bill



A story released today by the Guardian reports that British Ministers in favor of giving unmarried and same-sex couples the right to adopt appear poised to win the argument. A final decision will be taken after MPs return from their Easter break, but last night there was renewed optimism that all obstacles to adoption would be removed.

A cross-party group of backbenchers is to table amendments to a government bill, opening up adoption to all couples in "stable and committed" relationships. More than 130 parliament members are backing the call.

Yesterday, representatives of 18 child welfare agencies argued that, with 15% of couples now living together rather than marrying, the government's plan to increase the number of children in adopted care by 40% would be impossible to achieve unless the ban on unmarried couples was lifted.

The government is concerned that the move would have wider implications for the rights of unmarried couples, and some ministers argue that any change should wait until a review of registration is completed.


Thursday, March 14, 2002


Florida same-sex couples adoption law challenged


A story released today by ABC News reports that a generation ago, former beauty queen Anita Bryant put the national spotlight on Florida and gay rights.

Bryant led a successful crusade to overturn a Miami ordinance banning discrimination against gays. Then, with public support firmly behind Bryant, the Florida legislature passed a law that barred homosexuals from adopting children in 1977.

Today, that law and Florida's posture toward gays are back in the spotlight, as another famous woman, Rosie O'Donnell, is helping to champion gay rights. Steve Lofton and Roger Croteau, whose case got O'Donnell's attention, are challenging Florida's gay adoption ban.

The vast majority of states do not specifically prohibit gays and lesbians from adopting children. In fact, only three states prohibit the practice. Some states are considering similar legislation while others have made adoption easier for homosexuals.

Florida's law is considered the nation's toughest, because it prohibits adoptions not only by same-sex couples, but also by gay individuals. Several legislators who signed the original legislation have now signed a statement saying the legislation was a mistake passed in a climate of prejudice and hysteria.

Rep. Randy Ball, a state legislator from Cape Canaveral, says he still has concerns about gay adoption.

"Homosexual couples do not provide the kind of stable, wholesome environment that would justify the state having a law that allows them to adopt children," he says.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to weigh in on the law's constitutionality.



Civil rights group wants Florida’s adoption law repealed


A story released today by the Associated Press reports that opponents of Florida's ban on adoption by gays and lesbians are urging lawmakers to repeal the measure, citing the support of thousands of state residents.

"People need to be judged on their individual fitness as to whether or not they can be adoptive parents," said Matt Coles, national director of the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "This law is going to come down."

Florida is the only state that prohibits gay people, both couples and individuals, from adopting. It doesn't bar gays from being foster parents. Two other states, Mississippi and Utah, bar same-sex couples from adopting.

A federal judge upheld the ban on gay adoption last year, but civil liberties groups are appealing to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

As part of its effort to overturn the ban, the ACLU has begun an e-mail campaign directed at Gov. Jeb Bush and the state's adoption agency urging the law's repeal. Coles says it has generated 80,000 messages, including about 10,000 from Florida.

Lisa Gates, a spokeswoman for Bush, disputed those figures, saying that as of Thursday the governor's office had received 3,821 e-mails from Florida residents in support of repealing the law. Another 39,997 non-Floridians also wrote in, Gates said.

Bush's office wouldn't disclose his view on the law, referring all questions to the Department of Children and Families. Department spokeswoman LaNedra Carroll said the agency is simply doing its job when it refuses to let same-sex couples adopt.

"We have to follow the law, we must comply with the law, which has been upheld by the federal courts and is now on appeal," Carroll said.




British Prime Minister sets aside controversial adoption bill


A story released today by This is London reports that British Prime Minister Tony Blair has dealt a blow to same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples by shelving plans to allow them to adopt.

He appears to be avoiding a damaging showdown over same-sex adoption by setting aside the controversial issue until after the next general election.

When the Government's adoption Bill comes before the House of Commons on Wednesday, Labour party lawmakers plan to oppose an amendment that would give unmarried couples the same rights as married couples or a single parent to adopt or foster a child.

The amendment, backed by a cross-party group of MPs, is being blocked amid fears in Downing Street that political opponents would accuse them of helping homosexual couples to have a child.

Instead, Prime Minister Blair has decided to pass the issue to his political secretary Sally Morgan, one of his most trusted aides.

Baroness Morgan, who heads Downing Street's Equality Unit, will look at the subject as part of her review into the registration of same-sex partnerships.

The decision has infuriated MPs and children's charities who believe that unmarried couples should be given the same adoption rights as married couples. They say it would greatly improve the lives of many children by widening the pool of potential parents.

One of the adoption bill's aims is to place 40 percent more children with families, but that will not happen unless more couples come forward. The move will reinforce the belief that the Prime Minister is deliberately avoiding making big lifestyle decisions which could provoke hostility from voters, even though the next general election is not due until 2006.

The controversy is also an embarrassment for Health Secretary Alan Milburn, who is not married to his long-term partner, and whose department has championed the proposal.





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