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Posts for January, 2009

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.

Cleveland May Offer Token Couple Registration

Timothy Kincaid

November 10th, 2008

Those who crafted the Ohio ban on gay marriage did so with the intention of excluding gay couples from even the most rudimentary of protections.

Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.

While some anti-gay advocates will loudly proclaim that they have no problem with civil unions, those who sought and achieved the ban in Ohio had no such pretenses. Their prime effort was to ensure that ALL concessions, be they hospital visitation or property rights or any other small conveniences no matter how benighn, be denied to the gay citizens of the state.

Nevertheless, the cities of Cleveland Heights and Toledo have created registries for same-sex or opposite-sex couples. Though such registries have no requirements on any entity, public or private, and provide no benefits, they are useful for employees of those companies that offers domestic partner benefits. It provides an easy and convenient method by which to prove qualification.

Now some councilmen in Cleveland are hoping that their city will join them. From the Plain Dealer

The registry would be nonbinding, meaning employers and other organizations would not be forced to extend health care benefits to unwed couples or allow visits with a hospitalized partner. But supporters of the plan are hopeful it might encourage the allowance of such rights.

Councilman Joe Cimperman, a sponsor of the idea, said a registry would help Cleveland as it bids to host the 2014 Gay Games, a sporting event with a global audience. In addition, fees paid by those who register could pour some much-needed cash into city coffers.

“We are trying to show that we are a serious city when it comes to tolerance,” said Cimperman, who with other colleagues is expected to introduce legislation next week.

We wish them success.

(hat tip Stefano)

32% of US Citizens Covered by Couple Recognition

Timothy Kincaid

May 29th, 2008

With the announcement by Governor Paterson of New York that his state would enact policies to recognize out of state same-sex marriages (in accordance with a court ruling), the gay citizens of the first and third largest states now can rest assured that their state government will honor their marriages.

Though same-sex marriages may (as of June 17th) take place only in Massachusetts and California, such marriages are now recognized in New York and (perhaps) Rhode Island. In total 63 million Americans, or 20.7%, live in marriage recognition states.

States that allow all or nearly all of the attributes of marriage under some other name, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Oregon, contribute another 18 million, or 5.9%. Those who offer limited recognition, Washington, Maine, Hawaii, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, have populations totaling 15 million or 5.0%.

In total 31.6% of US residents are able to avail themselves of protections for their same-sex families.

The sky hasn’t fallen.

Marriage Rights Around the World

Timothy Kincaid

May 15th, 2008

The following countries offer some form of recognition to same-sex couples:

Marriage

Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, United States (Massachusetts, California)

Civil Unions

New Zealand, Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul), Argentina (Buenos Aires, Rio Negro), Mexico (Coahuila), Uruguay, United States (Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey)

Registered Partnership or Domestic Partnership

Denmark, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Finland, Luxembourg, , Slovenia, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Italy (City of Padua), Switzerland, Hungary, Australia (Tasmania), United States (Maine, Washington, Oregon)

Other Methods of Limited Recognition

France (PACS), Germany (Life Partnership), Croatia (Law of Same-Sex Relationships), Andorra (Stable Union of a Couple), Mexico (Mexico City – PACS), Colombia (Common-law marriage inheritance rights), Israel (Limited recognition of foreign legal arrangements), United States (Hawaii – Reciprocal Benefits; New York – recognition of out-of-state legal marriages)

Although recognition is in a rapid state of change, this is my best understanding of the current rights provided. Several nations are in the process of adding or revising recognition.

Salt Lake City Picks a Name

Timothy Kincaid

March 25th, 2008

We told you earlier that Utah legislators decided that Salt Lake City could not use the term “Domestic Partnership” on its couples registry. They’ve now picked a name: Mutual Commitment Registry.

In order to qualify for the registry, individuals must be in a committed relationship and responsible for each other’s welfare. In addition, registrants must demonstrate financial interdependence, be over 18 years old, competent to contract and share a primary residence in Salt Lake City.

So now when you travel across the nation on vacation, depending where you spend the night you might be married, civilly unioned, domestically partnered, mutually committed, or legal strangers. So travel safely, pack your documents, plan your route carefully, and make sure you don’t need hospital services in a hate state.

Australian State To Get Partnership Registry

Timothy Kincaid

March 12th, 2008

australia_regions.gif
The Age brings us the story:

GAY and de facto couples will be able to formally register their relationships in Victoria after the Legislative Assembly last night passed historic legislation.

The bill will be passed in the upper house, with Labor, the Greens and several Liberals certain to support it.

This registry is not marriage and is significantly less significant than the civil unions legislation proposed in the Australian Capital Territory.

A New Name for Domestic Partnerships in Salt Lake City

Timothy Kincaid

March 7th, 2008

I’m often bemused at the lengths heterosexual legislators will go in order to make gay couple aware that they are inferior. Even many of those whose sense of fairness leaves them inclined to offer equality under the law seem compelled to say, “But don’t call it marriage. It isn’t marriage.”

So on the west coast (and Maine) you have Domestic Partnerships. And on the east coast you have Civil Unions. In between you have, well, I’ll just stop there and be polite.

We told you back in January that Ralph Becker, the mayor of Salt Lake City, wanted to set up a Domestic Partnership registry. While offering no state or federal benefits, it would help couples prove relationships when seeking insurance and other benefits offered by private-sector employers.

The city counsel passed his plan unanimously.

Well this was just too much for Utah’s legislature. They just couldn’t have gay couples being recognized in Utah, it was too much like gay marriage. Eeeeek.

But they’ve finally found a solution: the registry can be set up and couples can seek to protect their families in this limited way… they just can’t be called “Domestic Partnerships.”

I kid you not.

So in the spirit of cooperation, I offer the following substitute names for the registry:

The Really Really Not Gay Couple Registry,

The We Care More About Pandering to the Right Wing than We Do About Helping Citizens Registry, or

The It Ain’t Marriage Registry.

I think any one of those should pass the scrutiny of the state.

Washington State Senate Passes Domestic Partnership Improvements

Timothy Kincaid

March 5th, 2008

UPDATED: see below

As we reported earlier, the Washington State legislature has been considering a bill beefing up domestic partnerships. The House passed the bill in mid-February. It has now moved one step further:

The Senate passed House Bill 3104, proposed by Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, by 29-20 along a mostly party-line vote.

The bill grants same-sex couples additional rights — including the ability to share bank accounts, the right to hold common property and immunity from testifying against one’s partner in court. Divorce rights — including child-custody provisions — were also granted.

The measure now goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is expected to sign it into law.

UPDATE:

3/13/07

Domestic partners will be granted more than 170 of the benefits and responsibilities given to married couples under a measure signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The measure adds domestic partners to sections of laws where previously only spouses were mentioned, including areas referring to probate and trusts, community property and homestead exemptions, and guardianship and powers of attorney.

Washington House Votes to Beef Up Domestic Partnerships

Timothy Kincaid

February 16th, 2008

In April 2007 the State of Washington established Domestic Partnerships. Yesterday the House voted to add specific protections to these relationships.

The measure adds domestic partners to sections of laws where previously only spouses were mentioned, including areas referring to probate and trusts, community property and homestead exemptions, and guardianship and powers of attorney.

The measure makes dozens of changes to state law, including requiring domestic partners of public officials to submit financial disclosure forms, just as the spouses of heterosexual officials do.

It also would give domestic partners the same spousal testimony rights that married couples have, allowing domestic partners the right to refuse to testify against each other in court.

The bill passed 62 to 32.

Yes, 32 people decided that not just the establishment of a legal relationship, but these specific rights, should be denied gay couples. Somehow they think this is just protecting the family and society and isn’t just anti-gay. They love gay people, ya know, they just don’t think they should have homestead exemptions.

Sigh.

The Senate companion bill is currently winding its way through committees.

New Mexico Moves Forward on Domestic Partnerships

Timothy Kincaid

January 24th, 2008

nm-flag.jpg
The Las Cruces Sun-News is reporting that the New Mexico state House of Representatives voted to establish domestic partnerships.

The House approved the measure on a mostly party-line 33-31 vote. Two Republicans supported the bill and seven Democrats opposed it.

The state Senate has a Democrat majority (24 – 18) and if the vote mirrors that of the House, the bill could become law. It has the backing of Governor Bill Richardson.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the Senate would approve the proposal.

Although the legislature has chosen to use the language of “Domestic Parner”, a practice most common on the West Coast, the language of the bill provides that:

A. Domestic partners shall be entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections and benefits as are afforded or recognized, now or in the future, by the laws of the state to spouses, former spouses, widows or widowers, whether they derive from statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other source of civil or criminal law.

However, Domestic Partners do have to file state income tax returns under the same provisions as their federal income tax returns, i.e. as legal strangers.

Salt Lake City Mayor Proposes Domestic Partnership Directory

Jim Burroway

January 11th, 2008

This morning’s Salt Lake City Tribune reports that Ralph Becker, Salt Lake City, Utah’s new mayor, has announced that his very first action as mayor will be to propose a domestic partnership directory that would include same-sex couples:

Becker’s proposed ordinance, unveiled Thursday, bucks the politics in conservative Utah – a state that rewrote its constitution in 2004 to ban gay marriage.

…The registry, likely to win the support of the City Council in Utah’s left-leaning capital, would serve as a catalog of adult residents – gay or otherwise – who can voluntarily add their names as long as they provide proof that they cohabit and rely on one another as dependents.

I’ve driven through Utah, and I’ve found it to be perhaps the most beautiful and friendly states in the union. But I’ve never been to Salt Lake City, so please excuse me if I show my ignorance. Salt Lake City is left-leaning?

At any rate, congratulations to Mayor Becker for taking this step.

California Supreme Court – A Hint at Things to Come?

Timothy Kincaid

January 4th, 2008

Same-sex couples who register for Domestic Partnerships in California receive treatment from the State identical to that of married couples. However, as the term “marriage” is denied same-sex couples, there are social inequities and other cultural and societal limits on same-sex couples.

Twice the legislature has voted to remove gender requirements for marriage and twice the Governor has vetoed the bill, citing questions before the State Supreme Court. Specifically, the Court is being asked 1) whether denying same-sex couples marriage is in violation of the state constitution and, 2) if not, whether a referendum passed by the voters in 2000 prohibits recognition of all gay marriages or only those performed in other states.

The California State Supreme Court has now received all written argument and oral argument, and a determination is predicted within the year. Today the court made a decision that may give us some clues as to how they are thinking on the issue.

In 1978 the voters in the state rebelled against the ever increasing property tax burden and changed the constitution (via Prop 13) to limit the increases in annual taxes and to limit reassessments upon the transfer to property to spouses.

In 2003 the State Board of Equalization decided that Domestic Partners were also entitled to transfer rights of property owned by a their partner. This was encoded into law by the legislature in 2005.

Some county assessors sued, claiming that the legislature could not tinker with propositions and redefine the terms of transfer.

The Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento disagreed in October, saying neither Prop. 13 nor subsequent measures barred lawmakers from granting additional exemptions to changes in ownership.

The court noted the Legislature’s declaration that the 2005 law was part of an effort to promote equality for all Californians, regardless of sexual orientation.

Today the State Supreme Court let the decision stand. Without comment or a dissenting voice.

There are several important differences between the property tax decision and the marriage question. Yet I think that this does give us a hint of the perspective of the members of the bench and a clue as to whether they will be welcoming of arguments about the limits to which a populace can restrict the rights of a minority and about the inherent equality of same-sex couples.

Were Oregon Domestic Partnerships Put on Hold by an Activist Judge?

Timothy Kincaid

December 31st, 2007

UPDATED

mosman.jpgWhen courts find that constitutional protections include gay people, anti-gays often raise the cry of “Activist Judge”. It seems to matter little if the judge has a long history of conservative affiliation or careful judicial determination.

Well, it may be that in the latest judicial decision on the rights of same-sex couples there actually was an activist judge, an anti-gay activist judge.

This is not Judge Michael W. Mosman’s first words on gay couples and their right to equivalent treatment. An Oregonian article from April 21, 2003 (via www.sodomylaws.org) provides us with some disturbing precedent.

Mosman, 46, emerged as the top candidate in January after Ray Baum, a lawyer for Smith’s family business, withdrew. But controversy erupted in March, when Basic Rights disclosed Mosman’s role in a pivotal 1986 case, Bowers V. Hardwick.

The group uncovered and presented to Smith two “bench memos” that Mosman had written as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. Mosman urged Powell to uphold Georgia’s anti-sodomy law against a claim that police invaded a man’s privacy by arresting him in his home.

Powell, who was the tie-breaking vote, later regretting making the legal decision to deny the same constitutional protections to the sex life of gay couples that the Supreme Court granted to heterosexual couples. It would not be until Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 that gay persons would no longer be automatic criminals in many states.

It is unclear at this point whether Mosman’s advice to Powell was due to legal position or how much was due to his own religious idealogy. In a book referenced by the article he suggest that another legal argument might have been more convincing. However, the language used by Mosman in 1986 makes quite clear that at that time he did not include gay and lesbian families within even the broadest definition of “family relationship”.

“Without belaboring the point, I am convinced that the right of privacy as it relates to this case has been limited thus far to marriage and other family relationships,” Mosman wrote to Powell. “So limited, the right of privacy does not extend to protect ‘sexual freedom’ in the absence of fundamental values of family and procreation.”

Judge Mosman met with the Democratic Oregon Senator, Ron Wyden, at the time of his confimation and convinced him of his impartiality and that he was not an anti-gay advocate. I am wondering if Wyden regrets his support. For that matter, I wonder if Senator Gordon Smith, the Republican who nominated him is having second thoughts. Both are long time allies of the gay community with Senator Smith often leading Republican support in the Senate.

In the upcoming months we will see whether or not this judge is abusing his authority to impose on Oregonians his own personal values. I’m not encouraged that the judge found a new “fundamental right” where none had been before – what appears to be a “fundamental right” not to have your signature disqualified if it doesn’t meet the established decades-standing requirements that were known to all upon the distribution of petitions. Further he determined that allowing gay Oregonians to form domestic partnerships would do irreparible harm to the anti-gay activists in Arizona (or perhaps to local anti-gays, I’m not certain) that were fighting against any measure of equality and dignity for gay persons.

We will, of course, keep you updated.

UPDATE

Judge Mosman ruled for the state and for gay couples. Clearly my concerns were unwarranted.

It feels wonderful to be wrong about him.

On Monday Night, Pop a Cork or Light a Candle

Timothy Kincaid

December 30th, 2007

us_ssm_laws.pngAfter midnight while the world is celebrating a new year, gay couples in New Hampshire will be celebrating new equality. Civil Unions will become legal there.

Meanwhile those couples in Oregon who were expecting to join in Domestic Partnerships will have a while longer to wait. The state has a peculiar system whereby a law can be delayed in implementation if there are enough signatures collected to force a vote of the populace.

Those who opposed allowing same-sex couples have any rights similar to those granted to opposite-sex couples gathered signatures but fell 96 short of the 55,179 required to stop the law. However they were able to find a judge to put the celebrations on a hold until he can hear their complaints about possible legal signatures that were invalidated.

The surprise ruling comes four days before the law would allow gay couples to gain most of the same legal benefits of marriage. Couples across Oregon were planning to show up at county offices Wednesday to register as partners.

But U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman ruled that they will have to wait. He set a Feb. 1 hearing to decide a lawsuit challenging the state’s methods for verifying signatures on a November 2008 referendum.

Mosman said attorneys for opponents showed that the rights of voters may have been violated if their signatures were wrongly rejected. Setting the next hearing in a month reduces the harm to people who would be affected by the new law, he said.

Those who had hoped to strengthen their families will instead light a candle.

In New Hampshire champagne will flow and tears and smiles abound in midnight ceremonies planned by those who just can’t wait any longer.

Whether you will be lighting a candle or toasting in new freedoms, have a very happy, healthy and sane New Year. And resolve to do your part in 2008 to bring about equality for gay couples across the nation and around the world.

Hungary Adopts Registered Partnerships

Timothy Kincaid

December 18th, 2007

hungary.jpg
We told you last month that Hungary was to consider a bill that would allow same-sex couples to register their partnerships and receive many of the same rights and obligations as married couples.

Reuters is reporting that the effort was successful

The law passed with 185 votes in favor, 154 against and 9 abstentions. It will take effect as of January 2009.

Hungary to Recognize Same-Sex Couples

Timothy Kincaid

November 16th, 2007

hungary.jpg

At present, Hungary has only limited recognition of inheritance rights based on Unregistered Cohabitation, a sort of common law coupling. However, the AP is reporting that the government will be presenting a bill next week to allow for official recognition of gay couples, and other unmarried couples, and to grant many of the rights of married couples.

The bill would give them many of the same benefits currently granted only to married couples, including rights of inheritance or to take the other’s name, government spokesman David Daroczi said Friday. It would not, however, give unmarried couples the right to adopt children together. Daroczi said the new law could take effect from Jan. 1, 2009.

Some aspects of the bill will require support from the opposition party. They are reserving comment until they see what is presented.

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