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Domestic Partnership News Archive
November 15 - November 21, 1999





This page contains news for the period Monday, November 15, 1999 through Sunday, November 21, 1999.




<<   November 1999  >>

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Saturday, November 20, 1999

Bally's gym in Fort Lauderdale won't give spousal discount to domestic partners

An article published today in the Miami herald reports that Bally's Total Fitness in Broward County, Florida will not give its spousal membership discount to domestic partners even though it does so in New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.

The story says that when Bally's recently offered customers a special discount to sign up ''spouses'' as members, Donna Watson figured she would sign up her same-sex partner as a birthday gift. They have registered under a new domestic partnership law in Broward County.

No way, said the folks at the Fort Lauderdale Bally's on Sunrise Boulevard. When she showed them her county-issued domestic partnership card, they laughed, according to Watson, then referred her up the corporate chain of command.

The story says that Watson, a 39-year-old Fort Lauderdale chiropractor, called the 1-800 number for Bally's

and said a mid-level supervisor told her: "Forget it. We don't care if she is your family. We don't honor it.''

Curiously, Bally's told The Herald and Watson it does extend discounts to domestic partners in three other U.S. locales -- San Francisco, Manhattan and Washington, D.C. But not in Florida.

The story says that some companies have recognized domestic partnerships, including two Bally's competitors: The Fitness Company and Gold's Gym.


Thursday, November 18, 1999

Prudential offers domestic partner benefits

A story published today by Gay Financial Network reports that Prudential Insurance Co. of America, the nation’s largest life insurer, plans to extend health benefits to the domestic partners of its workforce.

The New Jersey-based privately held company, which employs more than 60,000 people worldwide and holds more than $375 billion in total assets, will now designate domestic partners as "qualified adults." The plan will include unmarried partners of its employees to be eligible for benefits, as well as other dependents, such as elderly live-in relatives.

Prudential, which hasn’t publicly announced its new policy, is still working out the details about the new benefits package, which takes effect in on Jan. 1. Employees are now in a period of open enrolment in the program

Statewide domestic partner bill clears Massachusetts Senate

An article published today in Bay Windows reports that a domestic-partnership (DP) bill that would extend health insurance benefits to the unmarried partners of state employees, and allow similar laws to be passed at the municipal level without first needing legislative approval passed by the full Senate on a voice vote on Nov. 16.

Sponsored by state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, D-Boston, the bill was almost dead on arrival when state Sen. Marian Walsh, D-Boston, threatened to offer a so-called "extended family" amendment that would have extended the definition of domestic partners in the bill to include virtually any two people who are living together. But Walsh ended up re-writing the amendment so that the definition of domestic partners would be studied further, while the bill passed without the expanded definition of domestic partners.

The article says that the state Legislature was scheduled to finish its formal session on Nov. 17, the day Bay Windows goes to press. It then goes into informal session on Nov. 18, during which time no bill deemed controversial will be taken up until 2000.

Informed sources told Bay Windows they expect the DP bill won't be taken up in the House until next year, where they expect more difficulty.

Even if passed by the House next year, activists then face the threat of a governor's veto, since Gov. Paul Cellucci has publicly stated he would only support a DP bill that limits the DP benefits to same-sex partners.

Last year, the Republican governor vetoed a different DP measure because the benefits - similar to Wilkerson's bill now under consideration - were not restricted to same-sex couples.

Wednesday, November 17, 1999

Seattle committee approves equal benefits law

A committee of the Seattle City Council has approved, on a vote of 5 to 1, an ordinance which would require companies doing business with the city to provide domestic partner benefits to their employees if they provide benefits to spouses of employees.

This information was obtained from the office of Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin, A co-sponsor of the bill.

The measure will come before the full city council later this month for final approval.

Los Angeles City Council passes a city contractor law requiring equal benefits for domestic partners

The Los Angeles City Council today voted 12 to 0 to adopt an "Equal Benefits Ordinance" similar to one enacted two years ago by San Francisco.

The law will require any company signing a contract with the city in the amount of $5,000 or more to give domestic partner benefits to its own employees if the company gives benefits to spouses of employees.

The measure defines "domestic partners" as two adults who are living together and who agree to be jointly responsible for the common necessities of life, provided they are registered as domestic partners with an employer or with a government entity.

Thomas F. Coleman, executive director of the American Association for Single People, witnessed the historic event. 

"The seed for this was planted in 1985," Coleman observed.   That was the year that Michael Woo was elected to the city council.

Coleman convinced Woo to convene the Los Angeles City Task Force on Family Diversity.  The 38-member Task Force conducted a two year study of family life in Los Angeles and issued a landmark report in May of 1988.

Among its recommendations were several dealing with domestic partnership rights.  The Task Force also recommended that the city contractor nondiscrimination law be amended to prohibit marital status discrimination by city contractors.

The city began to implement these recommendations on a piecemeal basis starting in October 1988 when the council granted sick and bereavement leave to city employees if a domestic partner were to become ill or die.

Over the years, health, dental, vision, and retirement benefits were added for domestic partners of city employees.  Coleman and others worked with City Councilmember Jackie Goldberg to obtain these benefits.  Goldberg replaced Woo on the council in 1993.

The vote today was initially 11 to 1, with three members absent.   However, when it came up for reconsideration, the sole dissenting vote was absent and the measure passed unanimously with 12 votes and three absences.  As a result, it will go directly to the mayor for his approval.  If approved, it will become law on January 1, 2000.

Pennsylvania Legislature bans domestic partner benefits at state colleges

An article published today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the state Legislature yesterday rushed through a measure banning same-sex health benefits for employees of state-financed colleges and universities.

The measure also exempts the colleges and universities from any local ordinance that requires the provision of same-sex benefits.

The story said the senate quietly passed the bill in an unscheduled vote yesterday afternoon and slid it over to the House, which an hour later concurred in another unscheduled vote.

"These guys trip over themselves to vote against gays and lesbians," fumed Larry Frankel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union's state chapter.

Gov. Ridge said he would sign the measure, which would take effect immediately.

The measure appeared to pre-empt a legal challenge to the University of Pittsburgh's refusal to provide health benefits to same-sex partners of its faculty and staff. The challenge had been brought under the City of Pittsburgh's gay rights law, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The ACLU plans to fight the measure in court, Frankel said.

The story said the legislation was rushed through an unprepared General Assembly by Republican leaders. It was unclear yesterday who crafted the measure. The governor apparently had reviewed the wording ahead of time.

The measure, House Bill 515, was originally drafted to establish training requirements for chiefs of police. The bill was passed by the House several months ago and sent to the Senate.

Yesterday, Senate Republican leaders allowed the bill to be gutted and new language inserted to ban same-sex benefits. The bill also shields the state-financed schools from any municipal ordinance that could force them to provide the benefits

Cal State Panel OKs Giving Health Benefits to Domestic Partners

A story published today in the Los Angeles Times reports that yesterday a panel of Trustees at California State University approved health benefits for same-sex partners of university employees and for opposite-sex "domestic partners" 62 or older. The panel also recommended that domestic partners should receive the same dental and vision coverage offered to employees' spouses.

Democratic Gov. Gray Davis signed Assembly Bill 26 last month which establishes a procedure to implement domestic partner benefits for state employees. The bill, however, limited eligibility to same-sex partners of any age and unmarried heterosexual couples if both parties are over the age of 62.

The Cal State trustees panel on Tuesday granted approval with little discussion, said Colleen Bentley-Adler, a Cal State spokeswoman. "It's a sign of the times," she said. "It's pretty much becoming standard across the state."

However, what the story does not say is that what is standard across the state for local government employees is gender-neutral domestic partnership programs which are open to all unmarried couples regardless of age or gender.

The story said that Cal State officials have no estimate on how many of its 40,000 professors, administrators and other employees would sign up for such health benefits, or what the expanded coverage would cost. Typically, fewer than 1% of university employees sign up for such benefits.

Update: According to a report from a faculty member at the university, the full Board of Trustees today approved the benefits plan.


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