Wisconsin to Keep Domestic Partnerships
November 4th, 2009
On this day that we mourn the loss of equality in one state, we can rejoice that another has had a victory in its efforts to provide some measure of protection to its gay citizens.
In 2006, Wisconsin voters passed a constitutional amendment by 59%-41% which banned both same-sex marriage and “legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage”. And anti-gay activists rejoiced, believing that this ensured that lifelong committed gay couples would be denied any and all rights that were given willy-nilly to any six times divorced, drunken Vegas chapel, heterosexual couple.
But in June, the governor signed a budget which included the authorization of a registry for domestic partners and which granted a very limited number of specific rights.
Determined that gay couples should not be allowed to enjoy hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, joint tenancy rights, and the ability to take Family Medical Leave (FMLA) to care for a sick/injured partner or non-biological/non-adopted child, anti-gay activists sued claiming that such a registry violated the “no rights for gay people” clause of the state constitution.
And they appealed directly to the state supreme court, hoping that such protections could be denied promptly. The Wisconsin Supreme Court did not grant their wish. (KSTP)
The state Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s domestic partner registry.
The court offered no explanation in an order issued Tuesday.
But while this is a victory for decency and equality, it is not settled. They can still go through the process of trial court and appeals.
Gov. Schwarzenegger Signs 2 Pro-LGBT Bills
October 12th, 2009
Everyone’s excited about Harvey Milk finally getting his day, but the bigger news is this: California will now recognize marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships performed in other states, and treat them as Domestic Partnerships under state law. From The Sacramento Bee:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed two gay rights bills, one honoring late activist Harvey Milk and another recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.
…In a signing message, Schwarzenegger said California will not recognize the couples as married but will “provide the same legal protections that would otherwise be available to couples that enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships out-of-state. In short, this measure honors the will of the People in enacting Proposition 8 while providing important protections to those unions legally entered into in other states.”
May 22 will now be a state day of recognition for Harvey Milk. Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill last year.
Update: Gov Schwarzenegger also vetoed two bills: AB 1185 which would allow “better access to birth certificates for transgender people,” and AB 382, which would provide protections for LGBT prisoners.
Arizona Cancels Health Care For Thousands
September 8th, 2009
It was just last year when proponents of Prop 102, Arizona’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage promised — pretty please promised — that unlike their earlier unsuccessful effort in 2006, this time they learned their lesson and have no intention of going after domestic partnership benefits in order to get the gays fully discriminated in the state constitution. Crossed their heart and hoped to die, in fact.
Well Arizona’s new budget is in, and it proves the lie. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has signed the budget bill that strips health insurance from the families of approximately 800 Arizona state employees, along with other domestic partnership benefits. Now how’s that for pro-family politics?
Wisconsin Gets Domestic Partnerships
June 29th, 2009
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed the state budget into law today. That budget includes provisions for a Domestic Partnership registry to provide protections for same-sex couples as well as insurance rights for State employees. Protections include hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, joint tenancy rights, and the ability to take Family Medical Leave (FMLA) to care for a sick/injured partner or non-biological/non-adopted child.
Wisconsin’s Domestic Partnerships
June 18th, 2009
In 2006, voters in Wisconsin passed the following amendment to their state constitution:
Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.
The second part of that amendment effectively bans the creation of civil unions or of domestic partnership agreements that are “identical or substantially similar to that of marriage”. However, as part of the budget process, the State Senate and Assembly have passed language (pdf 1,743 pages), at the request of the Governor, that establishes domestic partnerships within the state.
The domestic partnerships are dissimilar to marriage in that while marriage requires a license and the performance of a specific ceremony, domestic partnerships are recognized by means of a registry:
Under the bill, a domestic partnership may be formed by two individuals who are at least 18 years old, are not married or in another domestic partnership, share a common residence, are not nearer of kin than second cousins, and are members of the same sex.
To form a domestic partnership, the individuals apply for a declaration of domestic partnership to the county clerk of the county in which at least one of them has resided for at least 30 days. Each applicant must submit identification and a certified copy of his or her birth certificate, as well as any other document affecting the domestic partnership status, such as a death certificate or a certificate of termination of domestic partnership. The clerk must then issue a declaration of domestic partnership, which the parties must complete and submit to the register of deeds of the county in which they reside. The register of deeds must record the declaration and send the original to the state registrar of vital statistics.
The domestic partnerships receive certain specific rights which are similar to those granted by marriage:
- Inheritance Rights:
- Inherit if intestate or if the will was written before registration
- Full property interest the decedent had in a home
- Inherit partner’s interest in a boat
- The rights to probate court and summary procedures
- Exemptions for certain personal items and for limited exemptions from the estate’s creditors
- Inherit wages due from an employer
- Wrongful death actions and death benefits under workers compensation
- The right to bar former partners from testifying about private communications
- Employment Benefits:
- The right to family leave to care for a domestic partner
- Pension benefits provided to public employees
- Fraternal benefit society may provide insurance coverage to domestic partners
- Local governments may provide health and life insurance for domestic partners
- Protection in state government employment from arbitrary discrimination based on domestic partner status.
- Joint tenancy rights in property
While these are far fewer rights than come with marriage, they will not be of insignificant benefit to same-sex Wisconsin couples. The budget has differences between the House and Senate versions which will be hammered out but domestic partnerships are likely to survive and to be signed by Governor Doyle.
Wisconsin Senate Approves Domestic Partnerships
June 17th, 2009
The Wisconsin Senate approved this year’s controversial budget by a very tight vote of 17-16. Tucked in that budget was a provision to provide for a Domestic Partnership registry. Among the very limited benefits of Domestic Partnerships include provisions for jointly owning property, hospital visitation rights and inheritance. Domestic partners of state employees would also be eligible to receive the same state retirement and health insurance benefits as spouses.
The State Assembly passed the budget last week with the same Domestic Partnership provisions by a vote of 50-48. There, the registry endured a separate 50-48 vote to remain a part of the budget. The budget now goes to a conference committee to iron out differences before final approval in both houses and the governor’s signature.
If domestic partnerships become law, Wisconsin would be the first state with an existing constitutional amendment banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions to provide domestic partnership protections for same-sex couples.
Mainstream Press Noticing LGBT Anger At Obama
June 17th, 2009
It’s very rare to see any the squabbles and controversies that play out on LGBT blogs and news organizations show up beyond our little playground. Huge events and debates can rage in the blogosphere with virtually no notice from the mainstream press. Not this time. Many of the majors are noticing the anger that many LGBT people feel over the Justice Department’s DOMA brief, as well as the cynical attempts by the Obama administration to try to change the subject. More importantly, the mainstream press is noticing that those attempts aren’t working. We already noted editorials from the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Here’s CNN:
President Obama’s decision to grant some benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees is seen by some as his attempt to extend an olive branch to the gay and lesbian community, but critics say it’s “too little, too late.”
“It seems to me at least to be a nice gesture, but a disappointment,” said Richard Kim, a senior editor at The Nation magazine.
…The rancor threatens to disrupt a big Democratic National Committee gay fundraiser in Washington next week. Vice President Biden is the guest at next Thursday’s DNC’s LBGT Leadership Council 10th Annual Dinner in Washington. Critics are calling for Frank and other gay congressional leaders to boycott the dinner, for which tickets go for $1,000 to $30,000 a plate. Activist David Mixner and blogger Andy Towle, two well-known gay rights advocates, announced that they were pulling out, citing disappointment with the DOMA brief.
The Associated Press has gotten into the act as well:
President Barack Obama signaled to gay rights activists Wednesday that he’s listening to their priorities by extending some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. But he didn’t give them even close to everything they want, bringing growing anger against the president to the surface.
Obama aides urged gays and lesbians to have patience with the new White House’s slow-and-steady approach to the politically charged topic. But his critics — and there were many — saw Wednesday’s incremental move to expand gay rights as little more than pandering to a reliably Democratic voting bloc, with the primary aim not of making policy more fair but of cutting short a fundraising boycott.
“When a president tells you he’s going to be different, you believe him,” said John Aravosis, a Washington-based gay activist. “It’s not that he didn’t follow through on his promises, he stabbed us in the back.”
Here’s USA Today’s blog, The Oval:
Response from gay rights groups to President Obama’s offer of some federal benefits to same-sex partners of government employees: The sound of one hand clapping.
Leaders of the gay community are making it clear that the president’s action, expected at a White House signing ceremony later this afternoon, doesn’t make up for the administration’s refusal to abandon the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law prohibiting federal recognition of marriages between same sex couples. As we reported earlier this morning, gay rights groups are incensed over a legal brief that the Justice Department filed last week in defense of the law.
Newsweek’s blog, The Gaggle, asks, “Can Obama win back the gay community?”
[L]ast week the Obama Justice Department filed a legal brief in federal court defending DOMA against a lawsuit that claims the act is unconstitutional. In fact, in legal terms, the Obama aides equated same sex marriage to incest, a move that horrified gay rights groups including the Human Rights Campaign. Coupled with Obama’s silence on another campaign promise—his pledge to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military—several high-profile gay activists announced they would boycott a DNC fundraiser scheduled for next week featuring Vice President Joe Biden and several gay and lesbian members of Congress, including Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin. All the bad publicity prompted the White House to schedule Obama’s announcement today, though an administration official insisted to Newsweek that the “memo” had been in the works all along.
The reaction to Obama’s “memo” has been pretty lukewarm so far. HRC, in a statement, described it merely as a “first brick.” But everybody is watching very closely to see what Obama will actually say. Will he repeat his vow to repeal DOMA in spite of last week’s legal brief? That’s one rumor going around today, though White House aides won’t comment. Meanwhile, David Mixner, a prominent gay rights activist who campaigned for Obama, says he’s still boycotting the fundraiser next week—unless he hears Obama say something amazing today. “I feel betrayed,” he told Newsweek in an interview this morning. “People are really angry.” He said it’s not enough for Obama and his aides to hint that they’ll do more for the gay community in the future. “We heard that during the Clinton years,” Mixner said. “Too many pressing issues? That’s code for never.”
Unfortunately, not all of the reporting has been accurate. Most MSM news reports omit the fact that health benefits aren’t part of the President’s latest memorandum. In fact, the Los Angeles Times erroneously hailed the President’s move“to extend healthcare and other benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees.” But the Times did note the anger which led to the President’s latest move:
Nothing, however, matches the outrage provoked by last week’s court filing in Santa Ana supporting the Defense of Marriage Act. The fact that the brief was filed during Gay Pride Month, which Obama saluted with a formal proclamation, only compounded the sense of insult.
“You have some appointments that have been good and a proclamation,” said [Ken] Sherrill, who has written extensively on the history of the gay rights movement. “And then two tangible areas where the administration has done something wrongheaded and offensive. Doing nothing at all would have been a helluva lot better.”
Aravosis Not Impressed by “Benefits”
June 17th, 2009
In a Salon article, John Aravosis expressed his dissatisfaction with President Obama’s planned announcement of federal employee benefits.
Tonight, President Fierce will try to make amends by signing either a memorandum, a directive, or an executive order, directing some federal agencies, but not others, to provide some benefits, but not others, to some gay federal employees, but not others, at some undisclosed time in the future. (And the benefits may reportedly go away when Obama leaves office.)
First problem, federal agencies already have the right to provide these benefits to gay employees — and several, including at least one DOD agency, do. Second problem, the administration can’t tell us exactly which benefits they’re talking about and for which employees. That’s because this was all hastily thrown together after the incestuous and pedophilic gays nearly brought down a Democratic National Committee gay pride fundraiser scheduled for next week. A gay blogger got hold of the event’s guest list and published it, and once Washington, D.C.’s gay paper, the Washington Blade, announced that it would be staking out the entrance to the event with camera and video, the $1,000 a head attendees started dropping like flies.
Jennifer Vanusco at the Huffington Post gives details of the rather uninformative statements by John Berry:
Berry also said that a memo would be sent out to all Federal departments asking them to look for additional benefits they could extend, and instructing them that making employment decisions on the basis of anything other than job performance – including sexual orientation and gender identity – is not acceptable.
but she reminds us
this guidance was already extended by Bill Clinton and was followed by George W. Bush. And the “benefits” are already provided by many supervisors at their discretion.
About Those “New” Federal Benefits for Gay Employees…
June 17th, 2009
…They’re not so new. I already noted that the announced benefits pertaining to the foreign service had already been announced last month. John Aravosis confirmed that the rest aren’t new either:
I just asked OPM Director John Berry, on a White House media conference call, whether in fact federal agencies already have the right to give these benefits to gay employees. The answer, “yes.” So what’s new about tonight? Obama is going to “tell” the agencies to give the benefits — as if any agency in the Obama administration would dare tell a gay employee no to a request for time off to attend their partner’s funeral?
Need any more confirmation that all Obama wanted to do was salvage the DNC fundraiser?
White House Fact Sheet on Benefits for LGBT Federal Employees
June 17th, 2009
The White House has issued this fact sheet on the Presidential Memorandum on federal benefits that he is due to sign later this afternoon. Some of this which touches on the foreign services has already been announced last month.
Fact Sheet: Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination
In an Oval Office event later today, President Barack Obama will sign a Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination. The Memorandum follows a review by the Director of the Office of Personnel Management ant the Secretary of State regarding what benefits may be extended to the same-sex partners of federal employees in the civil service and the foreign service within the confines of existing federal laws and statutes.
Over the past several months, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management and the Secretary of State have conducted internal reviews to determine whether the benefits they administer may be extended to the same-sex partners of federal employees within the confines of existing laws and statutes. Both identified a number of such benefits.
For civil service employees, domestic partners of federal employees can be added to the long-term care insurance program; supervisors can also be required to allow employees to use their sick leave to take care of domestic partners and non-biological, non-adopted children. For foreign service employees, a number of benefits were identified, including the use of medical facilities at posts abroad, medical evacuation from posts abroad, and inclusion in family size for housing allocations.
The Presidential Memorandum to be signed today will request that the Director of OPM and the Secretary of State act to extend to same-sex partners of federal employees the benefits they have identified. The Memorandum will also request the heads of all other executive branch departments and agencies to conduct internal reviews to determine whether other benefits they administer might be similarly extended, and to report the results of those reviews to the Director of OPM.
The Memorandum will also direct OPM to issue guidance within 90 days to all executive departments and agencies regarding compliance with, and implementation of, the civil service laws, which make it unlawful to discriminate against federal employees or applicants for federal employment on the basis of factors not related to job performance.
[Hat tip: Queerty]
NY Times: Obama’s Non-Health “Benefits” Timed To Stave Off Fundraising Disaster
June 17th, 2009
Late yesterday, we learned that President Barack Obama was going to sign a presidential memorandum (rather than a more permanent presidential order) granting partner benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees. Then we learned that because of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” — which the Obama administration chose to defend in court with an insulting DOJ brief — bars the extension of health and retirement benefits to same-sex partners. Which means that the presidential memorandum will only address things like relocation expenses.
New York Times is reporting that the only reason the Obama administration is doing this is to help salvage next week’s fundraiser:
But administration officials said the timing of the announcement was intended to help contain the growing furor among gay rights groups. Several gay donors withdrew their sponsorship of a Democratic National Committee fund-raising event next week, where Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is scheduled to speak.
This does not appear to be mollifying anyone as far as I have been able to learn. The rebellion continues, with at least five prominent LGBT advocates saying that they are pulling out of the fundraiser.
Wisconsin Assembly Passes Domestic Partnerships
June 13th, 2009
The Wisconsin Assembly pulled an all-nighter overnight to finally pass a budget in the early hours of Saturday morning. That 50-48 party line vote by the Democrat-controlled Assembly for the $62.2 billion budget also included important policy changes, including the establishment of a Domestic Partnership registry for same-sex couples. Among the very limited benefits of Domestic Partnerships include provisions for jointly owning property, hospital visitation rights and inheritance. Domestic partners of state employees would also be eligible to receive the same state retirement and health insurance benefits as spouses.
The budget will now go to the Senate, which is expected to vote on it sometime next week.
If domestic partnerships become law, Wisconsin would be the first state with an existing constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions to provide domestic partnership protections for same-sex couples.
AZ Legislature Moves To Strip Domestic Partner Benefits
June 6th, 2009
Here’s a story that goes to show that marriage opponents will lie, cheat and steal to have their way.
Last summer, Arizona lawmakers broke Senate rules in order to place an anti-marriage amendment on the 2008 ballot. At the time, they said that Prop 102 would not endanger domestic partnerships, and that all they wanted to do was “define marriage” in the state constitution. Marriage opponents went on to make this a key centerpiece on their Prop 102 campaign, that they had no interest in denying anyone’s domestic partnership benefits.
Well now we know that was yet another bold-faced lie:
State lawmakers are moving to strip the domestic partners of state and university employees of the health insurance coverage they gained just a year ago.
A provision in the state budget would legally define “dependents” of state employees who are entitled to coverage as a spouse or a child younger than 19 — or younger than 23 if a full-time student. Changing the law would override regulations adopted last year that added domestic partners and their children to the list.
The state Department of Administration says about 750 workers who have signed up for the benefits would be affected.
The measure passed the House last night and is now on the governor’s desk. Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who became governor when Janet Napolitano (D) became Homeland Security secretary for the Obama administration, was on record in 2006 for opposing domestic partner benefits for state employees.
Nevada Legislature Overrides Domestic Partnerships Veto
May 31st, 2009
The Nevada Assembly voted 28-14 to overturn Gov Jim Gibbons’ veto of a bill to allow domestic partnerships in Nevada for same-sex couples. This vote follows Saturday’s successful 14-7 override vote in the Senate. Nevada now becomes the 17th state to recognize the relationships of same-sex couples. The new law will allow domestic partners to have the same rights as married couples in matters such as community property and responsibility for debts. It also prohibits discrimination against domestic partners.
It’s been a bad year for Gov. Gibbons. With the domestic partnerships bill joins eleven other overrides to make Gov. Gibbons the most overridden governor in Nevada history.
Nevada Senate Votes To Override Domestic Partnership Veto
May 31st, 2009
Two Republicans changed their vote to override the governor’s veto. Sen. Dean Rhoads (R-Elko) changed his vote after reciving e-mails from heterosexual couples interested in Domestic Partnerships for themselves. He also was swayed by lobbyists from the casino industry on behalf of their employees. Also changing his vote was Sen. Dennis Nolan (R-Las Vegas), who had received many calls that were “ugly, vulgar and threatening messages” from people who oppose the bill.
The bill now goes to the Assembly, which had approved the measure 26-14. The bill needs two more votes in order to override the veto.
State Department to Offer Domestic Partner Benefits
May 24th, 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will soon announce that the State Department will provide domestic partner benefits for same-sec couples, a move which will have particularly important ramifications for gay diplomats posted overseas:
Among the benefits that will now be granted gay diplomats: the right of domestic partners to hold diplomatic passports, government-paid travel for their partners and families to and from foreign posts, and the use of U.S. medical facilities abroad. In addition, gay diplomats’ families will now be eligible for U.S. government emergency evacuations and training courses at the Foreign Service Institute, the message says.
The previous policy, which barred recognition of same-sex couples, left partners of gay diplomats vulnerable to the visa policies of host countries. It also meant that, in some postings, they may well have had to take their lives into their own hands as previous policies denied them access to competent medical care and emergency evacuations.
One former ambassador to Romania under the Bush administration, Michael Guest, used the opportunity of his retirement in 2007 to publicly protest the restrictions. Guest had been sworn in as ambassador by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who publicly recognized Guest’s partner, Alex Nevarez.
Calling Mormon’s Bluff
February 3rd, 2009
Last week, a Utah Senate committee killed a bill allowing individuals who rely on a breadwinner to sue for wrongful death. The vote to kill the measure was on a strict LDS-membership vote. Equality Utah isn’t taking that set back lying down.
Over the weekend EQ UT began a billboard, radio and newspaper ad campaign reminding Utah legislators of the LDS statement that there is “common ground” on some rights for same-sex couples short of marriage. The newspaper ads appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret New. Equality Utah’s Common Ground initiative seized on the LDS statement and proposed five specific bills for the Utah legislature’s consideration:
- Domestic partnership benefits for state employees
- Fair housing and employment provisions
- Right to sue for wrongful deaths — the bill that was defeated last week
- Domestic partner registry with attached rights of inheritance, insurance, and fair housing
- a popular vote to modify Amendment 3, which bans same sex marriage and civil unions. Voters would be asked to modify the amendment to allow civil unions.
Pastor: Religious Leaders Opposing Cleveland’s Domestic Partnerships “Confuse Religion With Faith”
January 11th, 2009
Rev. Kenneth W. Chalker, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Cleveland, as also weighed in on Rev. C. Jay Matthews’ attempts to overturn Cleveland’s toothless Domestic Partnerships. He says that Matthews and others are confusing religion with faith:
It is not unlike the pastors 150 years ago who proclaimed the Bible’s endorsement of slavery as a legitimate enterprise, argued that there was no valid marriage between slaves, and therefore no reason to recognize loving relationships between slaves or recognize, in a legal way, their children.
It is not unlike a number of leading pastors in Birmingham, Ala., who joined together in 1963 to give biblically endorsed reasons why the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was out of line and moving too fast with his advocacy for civil rights and the elimination of legal segregation based on race and skin color.
It is all the result of confusing religion with faith.
Pastor Opposes Cleveland’s Domestic Partnership Registry With No Benefits
January 11th, 2009
Ever since we learned that Cleveland passed a Domestic Partnership Registry last month — the one which proved extremely controversial among some council members, the one that is still so controversial that Rev. C. Jay Matthews of Mount Sinai Baptist Church is trying to overturn it — we’ve been trying to figure out what that registry provides. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Connie Schultz, it’s not much at all:
The registry just guarantees that unmarried couples with none of the legal rights of marriage can pay the city a fee to document that they are unmarried couples with none of the legal rights of marriage.
It’s as if Cleveland City Council said, “Look, we know that all committed adult couples should be equal in the eyes of the law, but we just can’t bring ourselves to say that out loud, ‘kay?”
Now, the registry does arm gays and lesbians with a defense, sort of, against greedy relatives, self-righteous clergy and all sorts of official-looking people who think only heterosexuals should have the legal right to marry, no matter how many times it takes them to get it right. To be specific, the registry gives homosexual couples a piece of paper to call their own.
For example, let’s say you’re gay and weeping over the body of your recently deceased partner when her parents show up at the funeral and demand the keys to the house you shared for the last 20 years. If the house was in her name only, I’m afraid you’re still headed for a rental with a futon, but now you can whip out that sheet of domestic registry paper, wave it wildly and shout, “We are too a couple. Says so right here on this document.”
Much better, don’t you think?
This is what the fuss is all about?
Group Tries To Derail Cleveland’s Domestic Partnership Registry
January 9th, 2009
Last month, we learned that Cleveland was about to offer a Domestic Partnership registry. Now we learn that opponents are determined to derail the measure.
Rev. C. Jay Matthews of Mount Sinai Baptist Church failed in his first attempt to gather 11,000 signatures by Wednesday to force a citywide vote on the measure. He’s now focusing efforts on what is called an ordinance by initiative. It requires 5,000 signatures to submit legislation to city council for a vote. If the City Council doesn’t pass it, it goes to the voters. Matthews hopes to be able to submit the legislation by April.