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Posts for June, 2009

White House Fact Sheet on Benefits for LGBT Federal Employees

Jim Burroway

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

Jim Burroway

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

Jim Burroway

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

Jim Burroway

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.

Equality Arizona is urging state residents to call Governor’s office (602-542-4331 or toll free at 1-800-253-0883) or email the Governor here.

Nevada Legislature Overrides Domestic Partnerships Veto

Jim Burroway

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

Jim Burroway

May 31st, 2009

The Nevada Senate yesterday voted 14-7 yesterday to override Gov. Jim Gibbons’ (R)  veto of the Domestic Partnership bill. The bill had originally passed 12-9.

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

Jim Burroway

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

Jim Burroway

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:

  1. Domestic partnership benefits for state employees
  2. Fair housing and employment provisions
  3. Right to sue for wrongful deaths — the bill that was defeated last week
  4. Domestic partner registry with attached rights of inheritance, insurance, and fair housing
  5. 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”

Jim Burroway

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

Jim Burroway

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

Jim Burroway

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.

Mesa May Consider Domestic Partnerships

Jim Burroway

January 7th, 2009

This would be a welcome surprise:

Arizona’s most conservative big city may become only the third in the state to offer a domestic-partner registry to unmarried couples. Mesa Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh has been exploring the idea and has asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would allow people to register their relationships with the city. “It’s not creating gay marriage,” Kavanaugh said. “The sole purpose is to ensure visitation rights for people who are in unmarried-partner relationships.”

It’s no accident that this measure would be limited to one single benefit: hospital visitations. That’s the same limitation placed on Phoenix’s so-called domestic partnership registry. Tucson’s registry, created in 2003, is a tad more wide ranging, encompassing access to family rates at city park programs and other municipal benefits.

Even so, the mere possibility that Mesa might take up such a measure is a pleasant surprise. Mesa has a reputation for being the bastion of Mormonism in Arizona. It is the home to the oldest LDS Temple in Arizona, and more than one third of all donations made to the Yes on Proposition 102 campaign came from Mesa residents. But the fact that Salt Lake City has a similar registry might provide just enough political cover for this measure to make it’s way though Mesa’s city council. Stay tuned.

Phoenix City Council Approves Domestic Partnerships

Jim Burroway

December 17th, 2008

Equality Arizona just sent out an email announcing that the Phoenix city council approved a limited form of domestic partnerships. The only benefit enumerated in the new registry consists of hospital visitation rights:

By a vote of 6 to 0, with 3 members absent, the council approved the creation of a domestic partner registry for Phoenix residents, granting unmarried gay or straight couples in committed relationships the right to visit each other in the hospital.

By recognizing domestic partnerships, the Phoenix City Council removed some of the barriers that have prevented unmarried couples, gay or straight, from being able to take care of each other. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to be told that you couldn’t visit your loved one in the hospital or hold your partner’s hand before they went into surgery.  Unfortunately, that’s a story we hear and experience all too often.

Phoenix To Consider Hospital Visitation Registry

Jim Burroway

December 15th, 2008

They’re tentatively calling it a domestic-partner registry, but the only proposed benefit from the registry is to ensure that partners are granted visitation rights in city hospitals. Anti-gay activists often concede that “of course” they find such measures to be entirely reasonably — until, that is, an actual measure is proposed. Now anti-gay extremists are coming out of the woodwork, raising the false claim that private contracts can take care of the job. Yeah? Tell that to Janice Langbehn’s family.

Cleveland Enacts Domestic Partnership Registry

Jim Burroway

December 9th, 2008

Cleveland’s city council voted 13-7 to provide a domestic partnership registry. The legislation goes to mayor Frank Jackson, who plans to sign the registry into law. It will go into effect 120 days after the mayor signs the bill. According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the vote wasn’t an easy one for several council members:

But several council members reported intense pressure from local pastors, who oppose domestic partner benefits on religious grounds. At one point Monday afternoon, a rattled Kevin Conwell, a co-sponsor of the legislation, seemed ready to change his position. “I had more than 70 calls over the weekend,” Conwell said. Conwell ultimately voted with the majority.

…Councilman Zack Reed, who voted against the registry, said he was lobbied by his pastor, the Rev. Marvin McMickle. Also voting against the registry were Councilwoman Sabra Pierce Scott, Councilman Roosevelt Coats. Pierce Scott said prior to the vote that she had concerns about how the legislation was worded. At a committee hearing, Coats cited biblical passages that he said denounce homosexuality. “Many of you may disagree,” he said. “That’s fine. These aren’t my words. These words are in the Bible.”

Cleveland’s domestic partnership registry seeks to steer clear of Ohio’s draconian constitutional amendment banning all forms of recognition for same-sex couples by being open to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

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