National Briefs, May 1, 2009

Posted on 30 Apr 2009 at 5:56pm
By Associated Press

Civil union supporters petition Hawaiian Senate

HONOLULU — Supporters of same-sex civil unions are still pushing for a vote on the issue with a petition signed by more than 7,300 people.

Gay rights advocates delivered the petition Wednesday, April 29, to the office of Sen. Brian Taniguchi, head of the legislative committee that held up the measure.

The petition asks Taniguchi to waive the bill’s referral from his Senate Judiciary Committee so that it could get a full vote from the entire Senate.

The petitioners also are trying to exercise a rarely used rule that allows petitions to be read before the full 25-member Senate.

Civil unions legislation passed the state House earlier this year but failed to advance out of the Senate Judiciary Committee following a 3-3 vote. An effort to recall the bill to the full Senate fell short.

Partners of NM state retirees get health benefits

SANTA FE, N.M. — The state of New Mexico has agreed to offer health care coverage to domestic partners of retired government and educational workers.

The change in policy announced Tuesday, April 28 will settle an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit.

Peter Simonson, executive director of ACLU-New Mexico, says the old policy wasn’t fair to lesbian and gay employees.

He says the settlement covers same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners of retirees who qualify for coverage through the Retiree Health Care Authority.

Gov. Bill Richardson signed an executive order in 2003 extending health care benefits to same- and opposite-sex domestic partners of workers. But the authority, a separate agency, handles government and school retirees’ benefits.

On the Net: ACLU: www.aclu.org/
Retiree Health Care Authority: www.nmrhca.state.nm.us/

Methodist top court affirms ban on clergy presiding at gay marriage, union ceremonies

DENVER — United Methodist clergy cannot perform same-sex marriages or gay civil unions, even if their regional church district supports the idea, the denomination’s high court ruled.

The Judicial Council said that a church district, or annual conference, cannot "negate, ignore or violate" churchwide discipline, even if they disagree with the policy.

Last year, the top church legislative body, or General Conference, voted to retain its ban on same-sex marriages and bar clergy from performing the ceremonies or consecrating same-gender unions in the church. Pastors who violate the discipline risk losing their clergy credentials.

The council decision, released Monday, April 27, after a court meeting in Denver, came in the case of two regional Methodist groups that had issued resolutions supporting clergy who perform same-gender marriages.

The California-Nevada Annual Conference had backed retired pastors who perform the ceremonies. The California-Pacific Conference had recognized "the pastoral need and prophetic authority of our clergy and congregations to offer the ministry of marriage ceremonies for same-gender couples."

The state Supreme Court in California had approved gay marriage last year, but voters reinstated a ban on same-gender marriage last November through the Proposition 8 ballot measure.

Man pleads guilty in gay immigration fraud

SEATTLE — A man accused of advising straight immigrants to claim homosexuality — and potential persecution in their home countries — when they applied for asylum has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit immigration fraud.

Steven Mahoney entered his plea Tuesday, April 28 in federal court in Seattle.

The U.S. attorney’s office says the 41-year-old Mahoney ran Mahoney and Associates in Kent, and held himself out as an expert in immigration affairs. They say he made money by advising immigrants on how to stay in the U.S. Between late 1998 and mid 2007, Mahoney admits he filed as many as 99 false immigration documents and was paid between $1,000 and $4,000 for each.

Mahoney faces a maximum five years in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 21.

Mahoney’s ex-wife Helen Mahoney, also charged with conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, faces a plea hearing later this week.

Colorado DP bill headed to governor

DENVER — A bill allowing partners of gay and lesbian state workers to get health insurance coverage is headed to the governor.

The bill got final approval Tuesday, April 28 in the House. Same-sex partners who’ve been in a committed relationship with a state employee for at least a year would qualify for coverage.

The sponsor, Democratic Rep. Mark Ferrandino of Denver, says gay couples don’t have the option of marrying and it’s only fair to provide an alternative.

Republican Rep. Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs says it will be costly and is unfair to heterosexual couples who are committed but not married.

Opponents also say the measure violates the will of the voters, who passed a constitutional ban on gay marriage and rejected domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.

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