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Domestic Partnership News Archive
March 21 - March 28, 2002




This page contains news for the period March 21, 2002 through March 28, 2002.



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Thursday, March 28, 2002


Colorado House lawmakers approve ban on same-sex birth certificates


A story published today by the Chieftain Pueblo reports that the Colorado House voted 36-28 Wednesday to prohibit listing two women or two men as parents on birth certificates in reaction to two Boulder judges' approval of 45 such same-sex petitions.

"The truth is judges are legislating from the bench," Rep. Lauri Clapp, R-Centennial, said in support of House Bill 1356 by Rep. Pam Rhodes, R-Thornton.

"This piece of legislation deals with birthing," added Rep. Lynn Hefley, R-Colorado Springs. "It takes a man and it takes a woman to make a baby."

Besides outlawing birth certificates listing two parents of the same sex, HB1356 would bar "maternity suits" petitioning for same-sex maternity or paternity if the birth mother or birth father is known.

The bill passed the House with 35 Republican votes and one Democratic vote, which was cast by Rep. Carl Miller, D-Leadville. The other 26 Democrats, as well as Republican Reps. Gregg Rippy of Glenwood Springs and Bill Swenson of Longmont, voted against it.

Sen. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Fort Morgan, will try to pass HB1356 in the Senate, despite an 18-17 Democratic majority there.

"There is absolutely no law or authority anywhere that the name on a birth certificate will protect the inheritance or security of a child." said Rep. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield.

The traditional nuclear family of a father and mother deserves continued recognition in law, Mitchell added.




Same-sex couples’ rights to be tackled by Connecticut lawmakers

A story published today by the Connecticut Post reports that Connecticut lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed Wednesday that the Legislature will have another chance to vote this session on whether to expand the rights of same-sex couples.

On Monday, the assembly's Judiciary Committee approved legislation to provide same-sex couples expanded legal protections, but the bill missed a filing deadline and is technically dead.

Despite the problem, Speaker of the House Moira K. Lyons, D-Stamford, said the bill would be acted on soon.

Republican Gov. John G. Rowland conceded there is bipartisan support to give same-sex couples additional legal protections, but there's not enough time in the short, mid-term budget-adjustment session to tackle the thornier issue of civil unions or gay marriages.

Proponents said that they would revive the legislation as an amendment on the House floor.

Lyons' support is tantamount to a green light for the amendment to be raised within the next couple of weeks.

The bill, written so as not to directly mention same-sex couples, would have allowed people to make written contracts to provide many rights that gay and lesbian partners are not allowed.

It would allow people to make health-related decisions for their partners, including life-support, autopsy, organ-donation and cremation commitments.

It would also allow for partners to visit private nursing homes and file wrongful death claims and have victim status in the event of a murder.

"The debate is on and I think the Legislature will spend more time than we have on the rights they may or may not have," Rowland said Wednesday.



Tuesday, March 26, 2002


Connecticut panel endorses same-sex bill


A story published today by the Hartford Courant reports that Connecticut’s legislative judiciary committee made history Monday by strongly endorsing a measure that would extend limited legal rights to same-sex couples.

The legislation was narrowly crafted and, in the end, it didn't even count because the committee had failed to meet a 5 p.m. deadline to deliver bills.

Nevertheless, the vote marked a milestone for gay rights activists, who have been pushing for legal recognition of their relationships.

Rep. Michael Lawlor, the committee's co-chairman, predicted the measure would resurface later in the legislative session in the form of an amendment to another bill.

Each time the question of gay rights comes up for debate, opposition softens, said Lawlor, a Democrat from East Haven. "Now people are talking about technicalities [rather] than the big fundamental issue of homosexuality."

The measure under consideration by the committee Monday did not fulfill gay activists' hope that Connecticut would become the first state in the nation to allow same-gender couples to marry.

It also stopped short of allowing couples to enter into Vermont-style civil unions or California-style domestic partnerships. Both of those states have set up systems that give gay and lesbian couples many of the responsibilities of marriage.

In fact, the limited legal rights debated on Monday weren't even exclusively aimed at same-sex couples. It would have allowed two people to enter into a legal contract for the purpose of medical decision-making, end-of-life care and a host of other matters.

It was, Lawlor said, an attempt to remedy some of the "everyday problems that same-sex couples experience." For example, many gays and lesbians testified they were barred from visiting their ailing partners in the hospital.

The bill, which both sides viewed as a compromise, drew mild praise from an outspoken critic of same-sex marriage. "This is much better than what we might have had before us," said Sen. John Kissel, a staunch Republican from Enfield.


Sunday, March 24, 2002


Michigan leaders approach same-sex adoption cautiously


A story published today by the Lansing State Journal reports that the national focus on gay adoption could mean new hope for gay parents wanting to adopt.

Michigan state advocates for same-sex co-adoption have worked quietly for years to convince more judges to allow it.

They've sent legal briefs, made phone calls and pushed the issue at professional conferences.

But they worry a more high-profile push could indeed tip the issue in the other direction.

"I wish (gay supporters) would lie low," said Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith, a Democrat from Washtenaw County's Salem Township who's running for governor. She thinks opening up adoption law for changes could lead to an all-out ban on gay adoptions. "The law's not perfect, but it's better than creating a ban," she said.

State Rep. Paul DeWeese, R-Williamston, said the law needs work. He's on the state House Family and Children Services Committee.

"It's not clear if it's being applied differently," said DeWeese, who supports joint adoption by same-sex couples as long as they demonstrate a lasting relationship.

"Either the Legislature or the Supreme Court has to step in and clarify the law."

Attorney General Jennifer Granholm could offer an opinion on the case if asked, but that's unlikely, spokeswoman Genna Gent said.

A law change would require approval from the governor.

Dick Posthumus, the leading Republican candidate for governor, doesn't think the law needs changing, spokesman Sage Eastman said. Posthumus wouldn't support an all-out ban on gay adoption, he said.

Three Democratic candidates - Granholm, Smith and U.S. Rep. David Bonior of Mount Clemens - support co-adoption by same-sex couples. GOP contender Ed Hamilton says gay people shouldn't be barred from adopting and, under certain circumstances, should be able to adopt together.

Nationally, laws on same-sex adoption differ. Utah bans same-sex couples from adopting and Florida and Mississippi ban all gay and lesbian people from adopting.


Friday, March 22, 2002



Cohabitation going mainstream in America


A story published today by the St. Paul Star Tribune reports that over the past 30 years American couples have quietly moved cohabiting from the fringes to the mainstream. These days, more than half of couples taking their wedding vows already have lived together.

It's a statistic that shows this country is not quite going the way of Sweden: We don't cohabit instead of marriage; we cohabit on the way to marriage.

"We've gone beyond the 50 percent mark," said Pamela Smock, a sociologist at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. "We're closer to 60 percent for first marriages. Soon we're not going to be asking questions about who does decide to cohabit, but who doesn't."

One indication of the jump in cohabiting couples is the U.S. Census, which shows an increase in unmarried men and women sharing a household, from 500,000 in 1970 to 4.9 million in 2000. Another revealing Census statistic: 90 percent of Americans will marry at least once.

A growing body of research is bringing more detailed understanding of cohabitation:

Of cohabiting couples, about 50 percent marry within five years, 40 percent break up, and 10 percent simply continue living together.

Forty percent of all children spend some time in a cohabiting household.

Some research found that domestic violence is twice as common among cohabiting couples as married couples, and that depression rates are higher. Also, cohabiting couples who then marry are 50 percent more likely to divorce.

But other research found that the relationships of cohabiting couples who plan to marry each other — up to 75 percent of all cohabitors — are as good as those of married couples.

"All those differences are why we need to be careful not to treat cohabitors as a monolithic group," said Susan Brown, sociologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. "A couple plans to marry? Presence of children? Ever married? Depending on all that, cohabiting is going to have very different outcomes."


Thursday, March 21, 2002


Minnesota House committee rejects domestic partner benefits in state employees contract

A story released today by Channel 4000 reports that the Minnesota House committee put the future of a contract for state employees back in question when it rejected the same-sex benefits that had been negotiated by labor unions and the state.

Acting on a charge led by Republicans, the Ways and Means Committee voted 16-12 Wednesday night to take away the health benefits of same-sex partners of state employees in a bill that now goes to the House floor.

Last fall, the state agreed to the domestic partner benefits after a two-week strike by the two largest unions representing state workers, the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees and Council 6 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The contracts are in effect, but ratification by each house is needed for them to remain in force. A bill to ratify the contracts is awaiting action in the Senate.

MAPE President Chris Mau said in a statement that even though the benefits wouldn't affect many employees in the union, he remains committed to pushing for them to be included in the new contract.

"We don't care if you're Mork from Ork and you've been fired for saying 'Nanu Nanu' to every question your boss asks you. If you have committed yourself to being a member of our union, then our union is committed to fighting for you." added Mau.

But House Republicans disagreed with that notion. Rep. Doug Stang, R-Cold Spring, proposed the amendment to scrap the domestic partner benefits. He said state employees and his constituents told him it was "not appropriate" to offer them because the benefits would discriminate against unmarried heterosexual couples and increase state compensation costs.

James Monroe, executive director of MAPE, said Wednesday's committee action was a setback for labor relations for state employees. "I think it's bad law (and) it's bad policy," he said.

Employee Relations Commissioner Julien Carter said the Ventura administration would fight legislative efforts to change the contracts. He added the vote may violate the Public Employees Labor Relations Act.

Ventura sent a letter to House Speaker Steve Sviggum in late February, urging him to work to ratify the contract after the House passed HR25, a resolution that officially objected to the state contract. At the time, Sviggum called it "a warning" that the House would not ratify the contract.

In the letter, posted on the DOER Web site, Ventura said, "With any negotiated contract, there will always provisions one group or another will not like. With the passage of HR25, the House of Representatives has deviated from a twenty-year practice of the legislature to not interfere with the bargaining process."

Ventura said rejecting the contract sets a precedent that he won't support.

Wednesday's committee vote sends the measure to the House floor for a debate Friday.



Pretoria civil servants win domestic partner benefits


A story released today by South African Press Association reports that in terms of a settlement reached with Pretoria’s Government Employees' Pension Fund (GEPF), the domestic partners of civil servants are now entitled to full pension benefits upon their death.

This follows the out-of-court settlement of a class action suit against Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, filed with the Pretoria High Court by the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project.

In the application, the organization sought to secure full pension benefits for the surviving same-sex partners of state employees.

In terms of the settlement, all partners of lesbian and gay employees of state or para-statal organizations will be entitled to pensions from the State Pension Fund upon their death.

This affects those who are in a position to register their partners for such benefits, as well as the partners of state employees who are already deceased.

"It is very regrettable that a matter such as this... took so long to resolve. We are nevertheless pleased with the final outcome," said Equality Project co-ordinator Evert Knoesen.

The organization also called on the government to shift from being defensive on matters of gay and lesbian equality to being proactive.




Amsterdam to make history by performing same-sex weddings


A story released today by Expatica.com reports that on March 31, Amsterdam will be the first city in the world to officiate the first legal civil marriage of same-sex couples.

Officiating at the service was the new Amsterdam Mayor, Job Cohen.

As the former deputy Justice Minister, Cohen was directly responsible for the move to legalize gay weddings.

Under the new laws, the same basic requirements will be in place for same-sex couples as for heterosexual couples. That is, one partner must be a resident of the Netherlands, the intention to marry must be registered and the two participants are not allowed to be closely related.

They are bound by the same laws of both marriage and divorce.

But important differences arise when recognizing the marriage outside of the Netherlands. There is also a major difference in the law if the married couple wish to have children.

"We are seeking recognition contracts with other countries," the senior legal advisor of the Registrar's Office in Amsterdam, Hans Tomson, said.

"But our expectations are not high. In Scandinavia maybe."

"In some countries homosexuality is still against the law. I can imagine you could get serious problems in Islamic countries or even the Balkans," Hanson said.

In these types of scenarios, Hanson said it would be better to leave the marriage license at home.

The Christian Democrats and three smaller Protestant political parties voted against the legalization of same-sex marriages and the Vatican also denounced the change.

It is interesting to note here though, that in the Netherlands, all marriages must first be performed as a civil ceremony before a religious ceremony can be staged.

But church groups maintain their strong attitudes, despite division among their ranks.

"I have heard of a few priests who will perform same-sex weddings against the authority of the church," Tomson said.



Australia’s domestic partner superannuation bill likely to prevail


A story released today by ABC News reports that South Australian Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson and the Opposition both predict a bill to give same sex couples greater rights under the State Superannuation Act will prevail.

After two failed attempts, the bill will be reintroduced to Parliament in May, by Labor backbencher Frances Bedford.

Under the bill, same-sex domestic partner relationships would enjoy the same legal recognition as heterosexual domestic partner relationships in terms of superannuation.

Mr. Atkinson believes Ms. Bedford has a much better chance of succeeding this time around and Shadow Attorney-General Robert Lawson agrees.

"I think it will be dealt with one way or another this time," Mr. Lawson said.



English city to hold it’s first same-sex ‘wedding"


A story released today by the Manchester Evening News reports that the city of Manchester, England will have its first same-sex ‘wedding’ by the middle of next month.

The ceremony, though having no legal validity, will be performed by register office staff.

City council chiefs are due to approve plans for the new partnership register service this week.

Couples will sign a partnership register and make a declaration of life-long commitment to each other at the ceremony. The register and ceremony will be open to straight couples as well as same-sex partners.

The ceremony will be performed by officials from the register office at the council's marriage suite in Heron House - or at other locations for an increased charge. The standard charge will be £97.50.

Despite having no legal validity, council campaigners say the register is an important step towards full equality for gays and lesbians.

Count Mary Murphy, the council's spokeswoman on same-sex issues, said: ‘‘I am very excited this is going to happen, and I am pleased that it's happening in Manchester because we have always tried to keep the equality issue to the forefront."





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