Legal Alerts-September 1999
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Domestic Partnership Benefits Programs Continue to Expand

In an unstated but obvious acknowledgment of the power of impact litigation efforts, United Airlines has announced that it will provide the domestic partners of lesbian and gay male employees a wide range of benefits. United Airlines had been leading the defense of their discrimination in a widely-publicized lawsuit brought by the City of San Francisco, arguing that the City had no authority to compel the airlines to provide domestic partner benefits as a condition of leasing space at the San Francisco airport. While United continues to assert that the City has no authority to tell them what to do, in fact United has agreed to do the thing which was being sought in the lawsuit!

In a telling move which signals the importance of winning benefits from lead players in the corporate world, American Airlines and Federal Express promptly announced that they too would provide domestic partner benefits to their employees.

In a legal move which may send a signal to companies and government agencies struggling to deal with the issue of domestic partnership benefits, a federal court has ruled that giving gay couples such benefits but denying them to straight couples does not create any legal problems. The court ruled (in Foray v. Bell Atlantic, 1999 WL370631, U.S. District Court, S.D.N.Y. June 8, 1999) that since straight couples could always get married and receive all the benefits denied to gay couples, they are "differently situated" and therefore it is not discrimination to give these benefits to gay couples only. This issue has been plaguing many employers wishing to limit benefits to gay couples only, and if this legal trend continues, this will no longer be seen as a difficult legal obstacle.

As the list of companies providing domestic partner benefits continues to grow, understanding the benefits -- and the limits -- of domestic partnership programs becomes increasingly important. Accordingly, here is a list of questions every couple should ask themselves when deciding whether to register as domestic partners:

  1. What are the precise benefits either partner is able to obtain, either through his or her own employer or through the employer of his or her partner? What are the financial and non-financial results of obtaining these benefits?
  2. What are the financial consequences, if any, of receiving domestic partner benefits? Will the health insurance benefits be taxable, and if so, at what rate and to whom? Will either party lose any government benefit or private benefit by accepting this benefit?
  3. Does either partner have any concerns about a public registration as domestic partners?
  4. What does domestic partnership registration mean to you as individuals and as a couple? Do you see it as a marriage-like commitment or merely the grabbing of a financial advantage? Will the benefit-bestowing partner feel like he or she is doing "a favor" for the receiving partner? If so, will this create any emotional issues for the two of you?
  5. What are the important issues which are not being covered by registering as domestic partners? What else needs to be done, such as powers of attorney, wills or property ownership agreements, to cover the important issues which are not affected by domestic partnership registration.

More Bad News on Adoption

Anti-gay decisions on the adoption front continue to emerge. In Pennsylvania a local court denied a gay man's request to adopt the children of his partner. In Matter of Adoption of C.C.G and Z.C.G), the court ruled that the applicant was not a spouse of the legal parent and therefore could not adopt the children without terminating the parental rights of his partner.

Meanwhile, in Florida, the Court of Appeals (in Kazmierazak v. Query, 1999 L 415215, June 23, 1999) turned down a petition by a lesbian co-parent for custody and temporary visitation of her child, ruling that being a "psychological parent" was not adequate to meet the legal standards for presenting such a claim to the courts.

For those wanting to do further research in these and other areas of interest, check out these valuable legal resources on the internet:
This is the site of Boston's Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, an excellent public-interest law firm serving the gay community. GLAD also recently issued Guidelines for resolving child custody disputes in our community.
This site features news on the efforts in France to establish a broad network of legal protections and financial benefits to domestic partners.,
This sites features current news and articles compiled by the National Center for Lesbian Rights
This site offers the monthly Lesbian/Gay Law Notes, a newsletter published by the New York lesbian/gay bar association:
The Queer Resources Directory is an excellent site, with links to a wide variety of political, social and legal groups.
This is the site of the Partners Task Force, a wonderful Seattle-based group which is working to expand support for same-sex couples.
This site offers an on-line academic publication, Sexual Orientation and the Law Journal, with articles on legal issues faced by lesbians and gay men.
This site contains a wealth of resources for couples including essays, access to decisions and statutes worldwide, and directories of attorneys.

Legal Disclaimer

General information provided at this site should not be treated as legal advice applicable in your particular situation. Every situation presents its own facts and circumstances, and the law may be very different depending upon where you live. By accessing this site, you are acknowledging that Frederick Hertz is not agreeing to act for you in any capacity nor providing you with any legal advice, and that you are not a client of Frederick Hertz. If you reside in California and wish to retain the services of Frederick Hertz, you may contact him at and make an appointment to meet with him.