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Domestic Partnership News Archive
March 07 - March 13, 2002




This page contains news for the period March 07, 2002 through March 13, 2002.




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Tuesday, March 12, 2002


Ohio State University extends limited employee benefits to domestic partners


A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Ohio State University has begun offering limited employee benefits to same-sex domestic partners of faculty and staff.

University President William Kirwan tried to come up with as many benefits as he could for same-sex couples without getting approval from the board of trustees, which isn't supportive of the idea.

The benefits include life insurance for dependents, financial planning services, employee discounts, a doctor referral service for travelers, confidential counseling services and Family and Medical Leave benefits. Some benefits began in February, others start in July.

None of the benefits cost the university money, said Larry Lewellen, associate vice president of human resources. Many must be purchased by the employees.

The benefits, however, do not include health insurance, which would need approval from trustees. Kirwan has advocated health benefits for domestic partners, but trustee chairman David Brennan of Akron opposes it.

Brennan said he thought the benefits were available to all faculty and staff, and not directed at same-sex couples. The benefits are available to married couples, but many are not available to the domestic partners of unmarried, heterosexual couples, Lewellen said.

"I don't think Ohio State even has the right to extend benefits only to same-sex partners," Brennan said. "We're a state agency and the state of Ohio doesn't recognize those relationships. I expect to look into it."



Connecticut lawmakers debating domestic partner rights


A story published today by the Hamden Journal reports that while most of Connecticut’s state legislators appear to support expanding the legal rights of same-sex couples, they don't necessarily think the state is ready for same-sex marriages.

Two bills, one to allow so-called civil unions and the other to legalize same-sex marriages, now are being considered by the legislature's Judiciary Committee.

Legislators said neither of these proposals may pass in this year's short session, which ends in early May, but other legislation to expand the rights of gay people involved in loving relationships could be approved in 2002.

"From the legal perspective, there are certain benefits or rights homosexual couples don't have, including being able to visit partners in the hospital and obtaining health insurance," said state Rep. Stephen A. Fontana.

"There are inequities," Fontana said. "The question is how to address them."

State Sen. Martin M. Looney, a Judiciary Committee vice chairman, said he isn't sure the committee will act on the two proposed bills by its deadline to report out legislation in late March.

"The issue is one of civil rights," Looney said. "The civil union bill might an be appropriate model for Connecticut, as in Vermont. Then there's no reason to get into the talk of marriage, which for many people has certain religious or even sacramental connotations."

State Rep. Nancy Beals said she has been contacted by constituents strongly opposed to allowing gay people to marry. "I'm certainly hearing from them," she said.

Beals said current law fails to offer certain legal protections for gay couples.

"There are certain rights that heterosexual couples automatically have that same-sex couples don't," said Beals, noting gays must have the knowledge, time and finances to seek out a lawyer and draw up appropriate documents to secure certain protections.

She favors making this process easier. "It would be simpler if there was just one document to sign," Beals said.

Beals doubts there is support for civil unions or gay marriages. "I'm not sure people in Connecticut are ready to take that step," she said.

State Rep. Cameron C. Staples, a Judiciary Committee member whose newly drawn district will include Hamden, said he could support either the civil union or gay marriage bills. He thinks the civil union bill is more likely to garner significant support.

"It's important for the law to recognize longstanding, loving relationships between same-sex couples," Staples said. "They need the same legal protection afforded straight couples. It's a simple matter of equity."

Staples is less excited about the idea of expanding only certain new protections to gays. "How do you pick and choose?" he asked.



Massachusetts domestic partners seek marriage license via court


A story published today by the Boston Herald reports that seven same-sex couples in Massachusetts will ask a judge today to order state officials to issue them marriage licenses in a highly contentious case that is expected to find its way to the highest court in the commonwealth.

"Whoever loses, I would expect, is going to take an appeal," said Jennifer Levi, an attorney for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders who is arguing the case today on behalf of the four female and three male couples.

Whichever way Suffolk Superior Court Judge Thomas Connolly rules, the case known as Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health is all but certain to be appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court, which has never before decided the constitutional issues around same-sex unions.

Levi will argue that the Massachusetts Constitution's guarantees of liberty and equality under the law are the fundamental rights that make it illegal for homosexuals to be denied the considerable benefits and privileges of marriage.

Judith Yogman, a lawyer from Attorney General Tom Reilly's office, will represent the defendants - the Department of Public Health and its commissioner, Dr. Howard Koh - on their position that the law allows the issuance of marriage licenses only to man-woman couples.

"One of our jobs is to represent state agencies when they are sued," said Reilly spokeswoman Ann E. Donlan. "Any radical changes in the marriage statute are a matter for the Legislature and not the courts."

So far, only the state of Vermont allows same-sex unions that confer to homosexuals all the legal rights of a traditionally married couple.

High courts in Hawaii and Alaska have issued decisions sympathetic to same-sex unions, but the rulings became moot when citizens in both states amended their constitutions to prohibit gay marriage.


Monday, March 11, 2002


Massachusetts lawmaker backs off on same-sex marriage bill ban


A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a key Massachusetts lawmaker said Monday he is backing away from a bill he filed to ban same-sex marriages in Massachusetts.

House Ways and Means Chairman John Rogers, D-Norwood, said he sponsored the bill to spark a discussion about the issue of marriage. He said he would not file the bill again.

The bill would define marriage in Massachusetts as ''a legal relationship between one man and one woman'' and deny the legal benefits of marriage to any other type of relationship.

It would also require the state not to recognize same-sex marriages that take place in other states.

Rogers said his intention was not to demean non-married families, but to protect Massachusetts from judges and politicians in other states. Under the U.S. Constitution, states must recognize laws defining marriages in other states.

Rogers said activists on both sides of the issue have been unfairly targeted.

''Well intentioned supporters and opponents of the bill have both been subject to much hatred and bigotry that harms us all,'' Rogers said in a statement.

The bill has not come up in the House for a vote. House Speaker Thomas Finneran said he supported the bill. Acting Gov. Jane Swift has said she would veto any bill legalizing same-sex marriages.

At least 34 states have so-called Defense of Marriage laws.

The issue of gay marriage remains a political lightning rod on Beacon Hill.

A group opposed to gay marriage has also collected enough signatures to put a question on the 2004 ballot to change the state constitution to define marriage in Massachusetts as a union between one man and one woman.

Activists in the state has called the question unconstitutional because it would deny gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. The question would also prohibit the state from bestowing marriage-related benefits to unmarried couples.



Taiwan proposes legislation on domestic partner adoption


A story released today by the Taipei Times reports that Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice has drafted a proposal that would allow same-sex couples to adopt.

The provision is a part of the Human Rights Protection Law. If passed by the Legislative Yuan, the law would be the first that specifically mentions gays and lesbians.

Sue Wang, executive general of the Judicial Reform Foundation, welcomed yesterday the government's efforts to respect the rights of gays and lesbians.

"We're pleased to know that the government has acknowledged same-sex couples," Wang said.

But while hailing the initiative, Wang also voiced concern over what may happen to the proposed law as it winds its way through the legislative process.

"To ensure that the provision is a practical one that meets the purpose of its intentions, the government should have publicized the proposal more and gathered more input from relevant parties such as gender groups and lawyers," Wang said.

"After all, the primary goal in proposing a law is to implement it and have the results be well received," she said.

Sunday, March 10, 2002


Meeting the financial challenges of divorce


A story published today by the Sun Herald reports that divorce is never something you plan on, but it's no secret that not every marriage ends up in eternal bliss. For many women, this harsh reality brings tumultuous emotions, added financial responsibilities and critical decision making at difficult times.

How can you make sure you're able to meet the challenges of managing your finances alone? Here are some practical tips to consider:

1. Know your investments and financial plans.

Educate yourself by reviewing investments and bank statements, qualified plan and pension information, tax returns for the past three years, insurance policies, mortgage information and records related to major payments, like credit cards or automobiles.

Become an active participant in your family's finances.

2. Create a realistic estimate of your living expenses.

The three most important questions you'll need to answer about your finances are:

- What will your average monthly living expenses be?

- What will your source of income be?

- How will you save for long-term goals like college and retirement?

If you don't know where to start, a knowledgeable financial advisor can help you make realistic assessments of your anticipated situation.

3. Keep a household account in your name.

Consider keeping some money in a checking or savings account in your name only. That way, in the event of divorce, you will have ready cash for household expenses during the settlement and adjustment period.

4. Investigate what’s rightfully yours.

Many women incorrectly assume their husband's pension and other retirement plans are untouchable. In fact, spouses may be entitled to a portion of the assets accumulated by their husbands during the marriage.

5. Know whether the state you reside practices community property law.

Only nine states have community property laws where a spouse is entitled to 50 percent of the assets accrued during marriage. The remaining states are equitable distribution states, which means variables like the length of marriage and the wife's earning power are determining factors in divorce settlements.

6. Be prepared to seek professional help.

By establishing relationships now with professionals, including an attorney, who can help you if you ever face a divorce, you'll have the trust in them that you'll need. If you do not currently have professionals in place, consider asking someone you trust for referrals.



Colorado city has the largest percentage of single-parent families in the state

A story published today by the Pueblo Chieftain reports that according to the annual KidsCount report, the City of Pueblo, Colorado has one of the largest percentage of single-parent families among the state's 15 biggest cities .

"KidsCount in Colorado!" compiled by the Denver-based Colorado Children's Campaign, tracks a host of child-welfare statistics from 1990 through 2000 by city, county and state.

This year, KidsCount also used its yearly report to identify child welfare trends by comparing statistics from the first half of the decade with the second half of the decade.

According to the report, Pueblo slipped in five of nine categories:

- Births to single women went up 12 percent.

- Births to single teens went up 6 percent.

- Births to mothers without high school degree went up 8 percent.

As of 2000, Pueblo ranked highest in the state in single-parent families and also posted double the statewide rate of three-risk-factor births, according to the KidsCount report.

Forty-one percent of all Pueblo families are headed by a single parent, the report said. And one in five births in Pueblo involve unmarried mothers under age 25 without high school diplomas, the report said.

Judy Griego, Weld County director of Social Services, said the community is concerned and formed a task force called Promises for Children to find out why the area has so many problems.

"There has been a community effort to work on these issues. There isn’t an answer right now," Griego said.

Sen. Dave Owen, R-Greeley, introduced Senate Bill 62 to provide prenatal and postnatal care for women who are not eligible for Medicaid. It received preliminary approval and is now pending in the Appropriations Committee.

Lawmakers also are considering House Bill 1185, expanding the Colorado preschool program. That bill is awaiting committee action in the Senate.


Saturday, March 9, 2002


Nebraska High Court rejects woman’s claim to have her domestic partner adopt her son

A story released today by the Associate Press reports that Nebraska’s state Supreme Court rejected an attempt by two lesbians to adopt a child, but avoided deciding if gay couples are prohibited in general from adopting in the state.

The court ruled Friday in the case of a Lincoln woman who wants her domestic partner to adopt her son.

The boy was born in 1997 after his mother became pregnant through artificial insemination. He has lived with his mother and her partner since birth.

The court ruled that the boy cannot be adopted because the mother has not relinquished her parental rights.

"With the exception of the stepparent adoption, the parent or parents possessing existing parental rights must relinquish the child" before an adoption can take place, the unsigned opinion said. The mother's partner can't be considered a stepparent because the women cannot legally marry.

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

"That question was left open," he said.

Amy Miller, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who argued the case, said the ACLU has not decided whether to ask the court to rehear the case.


Friday, March 8, 2002


Unmarried survivors of 9-11 left uncertain about financial recovery


A story published today the Chicago Tribune reports that the Bush administration Thursday issued final rules for the payouts that increase what victims and surviving family members of the Sept. 11 tragedy would get while increasing the pool of potential recipients. But survivors of those killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside Washington expressed disappointment with elements of the revised compensation plan.

For instance, they noted the administration's failure to raise the $250,000 guaranteed minimum payout, or non-economic award, for each deceased victim. "What they're really saying is that the value of a life is $250,000," said Carrie Lemack, whose mother died at the World Trade Center.

Meanwhile, unmarried partners of those who died expressed concern that the final rule leaves them out in the cold, unable to make a successful claim for compensation money.

Acknowledging that the administration's improved plan still had its critics, Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer who heads the compensation fund, said the average award to families would be $1.85 million when compensation based on lost income and the non-economic award were considered. That was about $200,000 more than was estimated in a preliminary version of the plan a few months ago.

The compensation fund for victims and survivors of the terrorist attacks, which was given to the Justice Department to oversee, was part of the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act that Congress passed to save the airline industry in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 tragedy, in which more than 3,000 people were killed.

Besides giving the industry a $15 billion aid package, Congress created the victims compensation package to protect the industry from a potential flood of liability lawsuits. Family members who accept compensation forfeit their legal rights to sue the airlines.

The final rules doubled, to $100,000, the non-economic award for each surviving spouse and child. The rules also made clear that Social Security and worker's compensation benefits as well as 401(k) retirement savings and charity donations to surviving families would not be deducted from the total.

But life insurance and Social Security survivor benefits for children until age 18 would be deducted from any amount a family received from the compensation fund. The revised compensation package also eases limits on eligibility for payments by allowing those injured in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to file claims so long as they sought medical treatment within 72 hours after the hijacking attacks and can document that. The earlier deadline was 24 hours.

In addition, rescue workers at those two locations and the Pennsylvania crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 may be able to receive compensation even if they did not get medical care for symptoms related to the aftermath of the attacks until more than 72 hours elapsed.

Also, the definition of "rescue worker" would extend beyond firefighters, police officers and paramedics to include construction workers who operated heavy-duty machinery that lifted debris at the sites, Feinberg said.

The rules would also make it possible for the families of undocumented immigrant workers to file claims without fear that the information gathered would be used to start Immigration and Naturalization Services proceedings against them, he said.

Feinberg said families would likely do better through the compensation program than they would through litigation. Congress capped the airlines' liability at $6 billion to pay all claims stemming from the terrorist attacks, including personal liability, property damage and business interruption losses.

Lucy Aita, who lost her fiancé, Paul Innella, on Sept. 11, said she was disappointed the rules left out unmarried partners.

"For now, we are unclear as to what our options are," she said of the dozens of heterosexual, gay and lesbian partners who may get nothing from the fund.

In this area, Feinberg said, the federal government would defer to state laws where the victims and survivors lived. And he noted that the laws "are relevant only in the absence of a valid will. Thus, to the extent that some or all of the award would pass by will, the will may determine the identity of some or all of the beneficiaries."

Jennifer Pizer, of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, which is representing a number of the two dozen gays and lesbians who lost partners in the attacks, said: "In most states, the legal rights of domestic partners has been evolving. ... Out of a desire to rely on state law, the federal master has avoided making specific statements about state law because there is so much variety in state law. So we are likely to see significant divergence in the treatment of claims depending on where people live."

"We know our options are slim," said Aita. "If our future in-laws, or whoever is representative of our deceased loved ones, aren't going to acknowledge us, then I think we will have to go to the courts."



Australian officials debate property settlement proposal

A story released today by the Age reports that in a meeting of national attorneys-generals in the Commonwealth of Australia, a proposal was introduced to simplify property settlements by limiting it heterosexual domestic partner couples.

The Victorian Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, said the Federal Government was being homophobic and discriminatory in refusing to treat same-sex couples equally with heterosexual couples.

He said the states were willing to transfer their powers to have property issues for de facto couples settled under federal jurisdiction in the Family Court. But the move should apply to all de facto couples, regardless of their sexuality, he said.

At present separating married couples have custody and property issues determined in the Family Court, but the court has the authority to determine custody matters only for de facto partners. Property settlements for de factos are decided in state Supreme Courts.

At a meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in Sydney yesterday, the Federal Government sought to take over state powers for property settlements for heterosexual de facto couples only.

"There's a general consensus it would be preferable and simpler for everybody for all de facto couples to go through one court system," Mr Hulls said.

A spokeswoman for federal Attorney-General Daryl Williams said the government wanted the states to refer powers to deal with de facto couples' property disputes in the same way as custody matters were resolved.

She said: "The Commonwealth regards same-sex couples as being in a different situation to heterosexual couples."

Chris Gill, the co-convenor of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said the federal stance was surprising, disappointing and at odds with the Victorian Liberal Party, which had supported same-sex relationships legislation.

He said the lobby was anxious to read the Commonwealth's justification


Thursday, March 7, 2002

Scottish man wins right to visit child he sired for same-sex couple

A story released today by the BBC News reports that a gay man who fathered a child for a same-sex couple has been awarded the same rights as a heterosexual father in a landmark legal ruling.

The sheriff hearing the case called on the Scottish Parliament to clarify the law on the parental rights of same-sex couples.

The 30-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had turned to the courts after disagreements with the couple over access to the 18-month-old boy.

The court heard that once the baby was six-weeks-old the couple tried to restrict visits.

They said he was just a sperm donor and wanted legal recognition for the mother's partner.

In a written judgement at Glasgow Sheriff Court, Sheriff Laura Duncan ruled that a same-sex couple cannot constitute a family unit.

She said the child's welfare was of paramount importance in granting the man "full parental rights and responsibilities", because it would be in the baby's best interests to have access to his father.

The written judgement states that the man was named as father on the birth certificate and he signed the document.

"He is therefore liable for the support of the child", it said.

The sheriff said there should now be a public debate about the parental rights of same-sex couples - and this may ultimately be decided by the Scottish Parliament.


Colorado bill would disallow issuance of birth certificates to same-sex parents

A story published today by the Rocky Mountain news reports that Colorado State Rep. Pam Rhodes, R-Thornton, is sponsoring of a bill that would bar the state health department from issuing more birth certificates carrying the names of same-sex parents. The proposed bill will also change the wording in state law that has allowed an adult of any sex who is not a child's biological parent to put themselves forward as the second legal parent.

Legal co-parentage for same-sex couples surfaced in late 1998 when a few cases began winding their way through the courts. Dubbed the "two mommies" cases, seven Boulder court findings said that people who have no biological connection to a child can assume parental rights under Colorado law.

After those individuals applied to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for birth certificates, the department appealed the cases to the Colorado Court of Appeals and then to the Colorado Supreme Court.

In both instances, lower court's rulings were upheld, allowing the birth certificates to stand.

For Karen Taylor and Jane Addison, enactment of Rhodes' bill would leave them in an awkward situation. They plan to have a second child and that child wouldn't have the same legally recognized parents as their first daughter, Katie has.

"I am Katie's mother. I'll be the mother of our next child," Taylor said. "No change in Colorado law will change that."





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