Eureka Springs adds DP benefits for city workers

(From Eureka Pride on Facebook)

Eureka Springs, Ark., long known as a gay tourist destination, has become the first city in the state to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees, according to a press release we received Monday:

EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. — The only city in Arkansas with a Domestic Partnership Registry today became the first city in the state to provide health care coverage for the domestic partners of municipal workers.

The city’s insurance provider, the Arkansas Municipal League, notified the city that beginning January 1, 2011 both same- and opposite-sex partners of city workers will have the same access to health insurance as legal spouses.

The announcement culminated a year-long campaign by residents of the Northwest Arkansas tourist town which in June 2007 became the first city in the state to enact a Domestic Partnership Registry ordinance to officially recognize unmarried couples in committed relationships.

“Once again, Eureka Springs is leading by example, this time in the realm of workplace equality,” said Michael Walsh, who helped lead the effort to expand health care coverage. “Marital status shouldn’t be the deciding factor in access to ‘family plan’ insurance. Legally wed or not, all city workers should get the same employment benefits, including access to health insurance for their partners.”

Expanding the definition of “family dependent” was “the right thing to do,” Eureka Springs Mayor Dani Joy wrote to the Municipal League in August, just weeks before the city council passed a resolution endorsing domestic partnership insurance coverage.

“I am aware as well as you that some will construe this as a ‘gay issue’,” said Joy. “But the reality is that there are many heterosexual couples who chose to live together in a committed relationship – as a family – without entering into the civil contract of marriage,. These folks face the same ‘family’ challenges every day, not the least of which is providing health care for themselves and for those who are dependent on them. . . . the definition of family is at the center of our concerns.”

Joy and city Transit Director Lamont Richie met with the Arkansas Municipal League Nov. 4 to lobby for a more inclusive health insurance policy.

Today’s announcement that their efforts were successful “is a huge step forward,” said Richie.

“And though only employees of the City of Eureka Springs will be able to take advantage of it for now,” he said, “other communities in the state may be encouraged to adopt their own Domestic Partnership Registries as a means of providing health insurance benefits to domestic partners of their employees.”

—  John Wright

Supreme Court rules on the side of LGBT rights in Washington state case

Clarence Thomas
Justice Clarence Thomas

As the Supreme Court session comes to a close, a number of decisions have been handed down this week. With little fanfare, the court ruled for LGBT rights groups in an 8-1 decision. Only Clarence Thomas voted against, according to the Washington Post.

The Supreme Court ruled that people who sign petitions calling for public votes do not have a right to have their names shielded.

The case involved a Washington state petition to repeal an LGBT domestic partnership law. The anti-marriage group Protect Marriage Washington sued to keep the names of people who signed their petitions secret fearing harassment.

What was surprising about the ruling against the right-wing organization is that the ruling and supporting opinions came from the Court’s own right wing.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion. He said disclosure of names is necessary to ensure their authenticity.

The group argued that petitioners have a right to free speech without fear of harassment. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that laws are in place to prevent reprisals.

The Supreme Court blocked the release of names until their decision. Names are unlikely to be released until the case goes back to lower courts for review.

In the election, Protect Marriage Washington lost by a vote of 53 percent to 46 percent. Same-sex domestic partnerships are the equivalent of marriage in Washington state law.

Fewer than half of states allow citizens to put initiatives on the ballot through petitions. Texas is not one of them.

—  David Taffet

Updates from Maine and Washington

According to the Washington Secretary of State Web site, the vote there on approving the “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law stands at 51.13 percent in favor, and 48.87 percent against. The Web site does not say what percentage of votes have been counted.

In Maine, according to the Bangor Daily News, the votes to repeal the same-sex marriage law stands at 52.34 percent in favor of repeal and 47.66 percent against repeal, with 78 percent of the precincts having reported. Note that the 78 percent figure reflects precincts reporting, not actual votes cast. Amond the 22 percent of precincts yet to be tallied are several large urban precincts with large numbers of votes, including several precincts in Portland and the surrounding suburbs.

—  admin

Maine, Houston update

Okay. At 9:23 p.m. our time, The Bangor Daily News site is not responding. Probably overloaded. But the Web site for WMTW Channel 8 (ABC) in Portland, Maine, says that with 24 percent of the vote counted, the vote on gay marriage is a dead heat at 50 percent each.

And Harris County’s elections site says that Annise Parker has 30.06 percent of the vote, with 39.24 percent of the vote counted. Gene Locke is next with 26.09 percent.

Results from Washington state where they are voting on possible repealing the state’s “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law will be posted at the state elections site at 10 p.m. our time.

—  admin