Gay partner can inherit — in New York, anyway

Susan Sommer

Lambda Legal has won another lawsuit related to same-sex marriage, this time in New York. The court ruled that the survivor of a same-sex marriage can inherit as a spouse.

J. Craig Leiby and H. Kenneth Ranftle were together 25 years and married in Canada in 2008. Ranftle died of lung cancer later that year and left his estate to Leiby.

After his death, one of Ranftle’s brothers challenged the will claiming same-sex marriage is not legal in New York. That state does, however, recognize marriages performed elsewhere and that recognition has been upheld in court at least twice.

“The Leiby case marks the first time a New York appeals court has afforded recognition to same-sex spouses for inheritance purposes,” said Lambda Legal senior counsel Susan Sommer.

Sommer said that the ruling protects out-of-state marriages. Families are prevented from pretending there was no relationship and disregarding the wishes of the deceased.

—  David Taffet

‘Pain’ in the asking

A curmudgeonly man, bespectacled in a plain black suit and bare feet like Yves St. Laurent at the beach, thumbs through a dictionary in the dark, telling stories that go nowhere. He’s a contrarian, obviously the survivor of a troubled past, but not really equipped to explain it. This is us, he tells the audience directly, interacting “face to face with the modern mind.” God, I hope not.

The absurdism that is Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) is smart (almost too smart), and it challenges you in assaultive but funny ways, with lots of word play amid the fatalistic rants. I’m not sure where it’s headed — absurdist plays are often unfathomable that way — but I do know that Steven Walters is the actor to lead us there.

His modulation of energy as he relates stories — about a dead dog, about anger and fear and relationships — it what can sustain you for 70 minutes of one voice talking to you on a mostly black stage. This show marks Second Thought Theatre’s artistic reboot; it’s a good way to begin.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Through Jan. 29 at Addison Theatre Centre. SecondThoughtTheatre.org.

—  John Wright

Survivor: Nicaragua’s Shannon Elkins Was Just ‘Protecting My Butthole’ From Sash

I’m not a homophobe and I’m not a sexist. … As far as the gay bashing, I didn’t bash any gays. I didn’t say, ‘I hate gays.’ I didn’t say, ‘Gays are stupid.’ I stereotype, my brother. It’s like the show ‘Waterboy,’ people think we [people in Louisiana] ride airboats to work, we have no teeth, and we wrestle alligators for a living. Well people from Louisiana think people from New York are either in the mob or gay. I stereotype like everybody else stereotypes. … I was concerned that he was gay and I was protecting my butthole. … I don’t have to ask Sash if he’s gay. Look at the kid, he’s gay. He kept on and on telling me I was a liar. He should have kept his mouth shut and he wouldn’t have been called out in front of America.

Survivor: Nicaragua's Shannon Elkins, the self-professed non-bigot who's approaching his fame clock of 14:58, on his real fear of tribemate Sash, who he tried outing during Tribal Council

CONTINUED »


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Queerty

—  John Wright

FW adds partner, pension benefits for LGBT workers

HR Commissioner Thomas says Community Relations Department cuts won’t impair enforcement of nondiscrimination ordinance

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — After months of a contentious budget process, the Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 21 approved a $1.3 billion budget for fiscal year 2011, and with that vote also approved domestic partner benefits for city employees.

Beginning Oct. 4, LGBT city employees will be able to add their domestic partners to their insurance plan, with the employee paying all the costs of the added benefits. The insurance will go into effect Jan. 1.

The new budget also calls on the city to increase its contribution to the pension fund by 4 percent and to offer new hires the option of designating a survivor, which can include a domestic partner, to receive benefits.

The move to offer partner benefits came in under the radar, happening quietly and with none of the often rancorous debate that accompanied the vote last fall to add gender identity to the city’s nondiscrimination policy, or even the decision to form the Diversity Task Force that recommended adding partner benefits.

The task force was formed last summer in the wake of the raid on the Rainbow Lounge, and was created to suggest ways that the city could better serve its LGBT employees and citizens.

In fact, it was the way the council set up the task force that allowed the partner benefits to be added without opposition, according to Thomas Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth.

The task force was created to study city policies and make recommendations on changes to City Manager Dale Fissler. All the recommendations Fissler concurred with, with the exception of any cost changes or policy changes, would be adopted without the need of a vote by the council.

Of the 20 recommendations made by the task force, all but three were adopted in January without a council vote.

One of those three — adding gender identity to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance — happened last fall during a marathon council meeting that included dozens of speakers on both sides of the issue.

The council chose to delay implementation the other two recommendations — partner benefits and adding insurance coverage for gender reassignment surgery — pending further study to determine the cost to the city.

Anable said that once it was determined that adding partner benefits wouldn’t cost the city, partner benefits were “a done deal. The council didn’t even need to vote on it.”

A spokesman in Mayor Mike Moncrief’s office confirmed changes in the pension plan and the addition of partner benefits, but said details on the pension plan were still being hammered out.

He also confirmed that the addition of partner benefits did not require a council vote, but that the plan was presented to the council as an informational item during a pre-council meeting in August.

During the budget planning process, Fairness Fort Worth had expressed concern that proposed cuts in the city’s Community Relations Department would damage the department’s ability to investigate alleged violations of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.

But on Lisa Thomas, an openly lesbian member of the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission, said this week the final changes will not impede investigations or enforcement of the ordinance.

Thomas said commission members and commission chair Estrus Tucker, Community Relations Department Director Vanessa Boling, Fissler and Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa had “worked hard to ensure that the necessary budget cuts do not harm the ability of the Human Relations Commission to carry out its mission.”

In the final budget, the Community Relations Department has been eliminated, along with Boling’s post. Staff was reduced from almost 80 to almost 40, with some of those 40 employees whose positions were cut being absorbed into other departments, Thomas said.

“The remaining staff of 13 will support the Human Relations Commission and carry out the investigations and enforce federal regulations under Fair Housing and Equal Employment in addition to the recently-expanded city of Fort Worth nondiscrimination ordinance,” Thomas said.

The remaining staff includes an administrator, support staff, two communications offiers and an investigatory staff.

“I believe that the organization as it is proposed in the budget can work and will be considered substantially equivalent to the requirements as laid out in the federal regulations, allowing the commission and its work to continue,” Thomas said.

“In this way, we can continue to protect all the people who live, work and visit in Fort Worth.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas