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Same-sex marriage testimony

"Are you prepared to make this country, this state, and this county welcoming to same-sex couples?" We have choices, as I pointed out to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on March 9th, 2003.
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"Are you prepared to make this country, this state, and this county welcoming to same-sex couples?" Same-sex couples have choices, as I pointed out to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on March 9th, 2003. The original draft of my remarks is below.

Good morning. My name is [xxxxx]. I have lived in Santa Cruz County for two and a half years.

I have in my hands a marriage certificate whose legal status is not in doubt. It's from the Province of Ontario, in Canada. Three different courts in three different provinces found that Canada's Charter of Rights compels recognition of same-sex marriage. The rulings were stayed, to give Canada's Federal Government time to craft a law. The kick came last June, when an appeals court forced the City of Toronto to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and the Province of Ontario to register the marriages.

I grew up in Toronto, so I was proud to return there, with my sweetheart of 2 years, to be married. We were married in August, with my parents participating in the ceremony.

Now, I'm a dual citizen. I can move freely between Canada and the U.S. My husband is a U.S. citizen, but I could sponsor him tomorrow for permanent residency in Canada. That's one of the nice things about a legally valid marriage.

Those of you who know me from my transit advocacy work with the Metro Riders Union, and who have seen me at a Metro board meeting, know that I ask tough questions. So here's my tough question for the Board of Supervisors: Where should my husband and I make our future? Should we stay in the U.S., where we are "domestic partners" with minimal legal standing, or should we move to Canada, where we are a regular married couple? Are you prepared to make this country, this state, and this county welcoming to same-sex couples?

I am not so concerned about getting the county clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Hopefully he will change his mind and issue them of his own volition. I do hope that you sign-on to San Francisco's lawsuit.

I do care that you fight the constitutional amendment, because the text that's on the floor today would deny the "incidents of marriage" to same-sex couples. Even domestic partnership would go.

But what I really care about, at this moment, is that you fix local problems for same-sex couples. Here are two examples:

  1. Let's say I own a home and add my domestic partner to the title. I have to pay the county several thousand dollars' worth of real estate transfer tax. Waive the transfer tax for domestic partners, just as you do for married couples.

  2. Let's say I work for the county and enroll my domestic partner in the health insurance plan. I have to pay federal income tax on his health benefits. Add a top-up payment so that employer-paid health means the same thing for domestic partners as it does for married couples.

There are countless more examples. Fix them before you take up the marriage license issue. Send a firm message that Santa Cruz County treats same-sex couples equally.

Thank you.

Notes from after the hearing

Bradley of the local IndyMedia Cooperative was at the Board of Supervisors Meeting, taking lots of great pictures. In a separate discussion, Bradley has been criticized for posting the photos with a summary rather than a full article. Last fall, Bill Lovejoy of the Sentinel photographed my husband and me for a Sentinel story, and the three of us had a great conversation about news reporting. We bemoaned the lack of photos on the Sentinel Web site. We agreed that pictures can tell some stories better than words, and that more, not less, space should be devoted to visuals. I for one really appreciate Bradley's work!

During the public comment period for items not on the agenda, some very passionate county residents spoke out against roadside pesticide spraying. It sounded like a state-level (Caltrans) program, rather than a local one. I would encourage those speakers to approach individual County Supervisors for letters of support, and then to take the battle to the appropriate level of government.

In their first motion on the marriage issue, the Supervisors voted to write a letter to the County Clerk encouraging him to issue marriage licenses, etc., to same-sex couples. Supervisor Pirie was absent due to a family emergency. Only Supervisor Beautz voted no. I understood Supervisor Beautz's position and hope that other community members will recognize that she wanted to focus on substantive issues.

In their second motion, the Supervisors voted to join San Francisco's lawsuit over same-sex marriage and to oppose a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The vote was unanimous. Again, Supervisor Pirie was absent.

I later discovered that the County might already be providing the federal income tax top-up payment. Need to investigate. Incidentally, there are many non-obvious gaps in standard employer health plans, including non-coverage of the children of the domestic partner and the domestic partner's ineligibility for continuation of benefits under COBRA.

Also, be it known that I am treating the health benefits question as a fairness issue only (one class is covered so other similar classes should be covered). I am against employer health benefits and in favor of a single-payer system that provides coverage to all, regardless of employment status or relationship to an employee. The silly idea that employer health coverage solves problems is what got us here in the first place. Those who don't qualify for employer coverage now have very few options for individual insurance!


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Temporary setback in SF

My, this is a fast-paced issue! The California Supreme Court just ordered San Francisco to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Interestingly, the Court is not taking up the larger question: does the state or federal constitution compel recognition of same-sex marriage? Instead, the Court will rule on San Francisco's right to violate a state law that it deems unconstitutional. Apparently, the Court will rule within 90 days after hearing. [ All details per the San Francisco Chronicle, ]

The temporary end of same-sex weddings in San Francisco is unfortunate. If anyone needs advice about the process of getting married in Ontario, Canada, I would be happy to help. And as we wait for the hearing and the eventual ruling, let us push hard on government officials at all levels, so that the rights and responsibilities of same-sex couples can be strengthened right now, under the existing legal framework.

P.S.: I just checked, which is running the apocalyptic headline, "California's top court blocks gay marriages". The first paragraph of the article goes back on this. "The court did not rule on the legality of gay marriages".

Re: Same-sex marriage testimony

Why do you all so desperately crave the acknowledgement and blessings of the government, something you generally despise anyway, of your personal romantic commitments?

"Tax breaks" are a priviledge, by definition. Not a right. If you think you should be allowed to keep your own damn money, well.. you're right. So make that the point - it has nothing to do with gender preference, us straight people want the same thing.

"Health insurance for domestic partners" is a priviledge too - if you don't like the terms, don't sign the contract. If you don't like the benefits, find another job. The insurance "company" is just the private property of the stockholders, and if they don't want to deal with you on your terms that's their right - just as it's your right not to accept their terms.

Live together by your own standards and just be happy! Stop caring so much whether or not other people approve of your lifestyle.

Really, people.

Besides, hasn't it occured to you yet that you've been duped? Dubya has been caught with his pants down in an election year over his flat-out lies about justification for invading a sovereign foreign nation, so he and his Republican flunkies decide to push your buttons over Gay Marriage, to get you all riled up and distract the press from Iraq and WMDs.

And you all took the bait!


How about hospital visitation?

To "why?", who was not even courageous enough to include a name or an e-mail address, have you considered:

  • The right to visit a spouse or a child who is in the hospital?
  • The right to make medical decisions for a spouse or a child?
  • The opportunity to continue living in the home that you and your spouse shared, after the spouse has died?
  • The right and privilege of being responsible for your spouse's living expenses and debts?
  • The right and privilege of serving as the parent/guardian of your spouse's child?

I could go on and on. You demonstrate a rather limited understanding of the implications of marriage. Whine all you want about getting the government out of people's lives. Marriage affects thousands of rights and benefits, public and private. It's an institution that isn't going anywhere.

You've conveniently left out the responsibilities associated with marriage. Paying taxes on a two-income basis is a responsibility; historically, the tax bill for a married couple has been higher, not lower (ever heard of the old "marriage penalty")? Assuming your spouse's debts is also a responsibility.

As far as the regulation of employer health insurance plans goes, do you oppose:

  • Required coverage of breast cancer screenings?
  • Required coverage of prescription contraceptive medications/devices, to the extent that a plan covers other prescription items?
  • Required maintenance of coverage for retirees, as long as active employees have coverage?
  • Required coverage of mental health services, to the extent that other medical services are covered?
  • Required availability of continuation coverage -- at the patient's own expense -- when the patient loses group coverage?

These are all examples of existing federal and state regulations on employer health insurance plans. The last one will be interesting to you, since you claim that employer health insurance is just between the employee and the employer. COBRA, the Consolidated Budget Omnibus Reconciliation Act (big federal law that does many things at once), requires employer health plans to sell continuation coverage to people who lose group coverage. This can happen, for example, if you are laid off, if your parent or spouse (who was the covered employee) is laid off, if you divorce your spouse (who was the covered employee), or if you become too old to be covered as a dependent of your parent (who is the covered employee).

There is no cost to the employer, since the patient is required to pay 102% of the premium that the employer would otherwise pay. The law doesn't impose a financial burden on employers, but it does accomplish two important things for patients. First, it guarantees that coverage will be available, at a time when individual insurance is almost impossible to get. Second, it guarantees that the coverage will be provided at a fair price (i.e., the same price that the employer would otherwise pay).

Here's the rub. COBRA defines spouses as opposite-sex people, and children as legal children of the employee or of the employee's opposite-sex spouse. So the regulation is already in place, it provides the only realistic health insurance option for many opposite-sex married people and their children, and you don't want to extend it to cover same-sex couples and their children?


Re: Same-sex marriage testimony

Same-sex marriage testimony
unknown media
and you thought of this?

Blame it on the fags

My thoughts?

This cartoon is an insult to all Americans. It suggests that the average voter is too stupid to worry about war, job losses, huge federal deficits and other bona fide threats to our country.

The cartoon is particularly insulting to queer people. It suggests that we should go back into the closet. Unfortunately, there will never be a "polite" time to introduce queers and queer issues.

When she visited UCSC a few years ago, journalist Helen Zia talked about the dangers of being "too fucking nice". This remark had to do with the stereotypical image of Asian-Americans, but Helen has tackled numerous social justice issues and is herself a lesbian. For queers, the equivalent of being "too fucking nice" is being completely invisible.

Finally, the cartoon suggests that we fags should be blamed in the event of a Democratic loss. Compare Jerry Fallwell, who said of the September 11th terrorist attacks,

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"


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