Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Straight People Partnerships

The tiny but formidable Senator Carole Migden has hit the headlines again with her latest bill, SB 11. This bill would expand California’s Domestic Partnership Program to allow opposite-sex couples to register for domestic Partnerships.

Under existing law, heterosexual couples are ineligible to register for domestic partnerships unless at least one partner is over the age of 62. Seniors are allowed to register for domestic partnerships in lieu of marriage because they may want to avoid marriage in order to protect their benefits. Gay couples are totally ineligible for marriage in California but may instead obtain a domestic partnership which now affords all the rights and responsibilities that the state provides to married couples.

Still, domestic partnerships are considered differently under both state and federal law. Federal law does not recognize domestic partnerships at all and provides none of the benefits of marriage to such couples. State law allows for a much easier, faster, and often less expensive dissolution of a domestic partnership as compared to marriage.

The California courts have been reviewing Gay marriage laws in California since Mayor Gavin Newsom began to allow such unions in San Francisco two years ago. Most recently, the California appellate court ruled that California laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are non-discriminatory in part because Gay people may marry in heterosexual unions and because even if they choose to couple with those of the same sex, California provides all of the benefits of marriage in an equal institution (domestic partnerships).

Migden’s stated motivation for SB 11 has been to provide a marriage alternative to heterosexual couples. Many unwed mothers in this state currently cohabitate in a family unit with a father. Domestic partnerships would provide a more stable environment for the rearing of children, would allow both adults to share in employment benefits, offer each the ability to make critical medical decisions when the other is incapacitated, among other benefits. These changes could be extremely beneficial to nontraditional family units.

However, Migden could very well have another motive: a demonstration that marriage and domestic partnerships are separate and unequal institutions. Clearly there must be a difference if a number of people given a choice would predictably choose to engage in one form of partnership instead of the other. Further, it would increase the disparity by allowing straight people to choose between marriage and domestic partnerships but still only allow Gay people to obtain domestic partnerships. Already, the Christian conservative right in California have cried out claiming that this expansion of domestic partnerships is an all-out assault on traditional marriage.

This demonstration that marriage and domestic partnerships are inherently different institutions and that gay people are only allowed to obtain domestic partnerships while heterosexual people are able to choose between the two might spur the California Supreme Court to recognize the difference between the two when they take up the issue next year.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

All Work and no Pay

In case you haven’t been keeping up with Congressional politics, the Dems are heading out of the gate at full speed. The interesting part is that they aren’t screwing up their lead at all!

First, Steny Hoyer announced that he will expect members of the House to actually show up and work most days. Commonly referred to as the “Tuesday-Thursday Club,” members of the House are known to work approximately 3 days of the week in DC, then leave to spend time with their families, constituents, donors, and lobbyists. What has resulted is a culture in which members don’t actually schedule House meetings often enough to actually accomplish anything. The 109th Congress may go down in history as being one of the laziest in US History.

Hoyer has suggested that the House meet five-days-a-week for the first part of the new session in order to take care of many items that were neglected this year and last. As you might expect, this has caused some buzz. Republicans are claiming that this is a ploy on the part of the Dems to hurt families. In reality, those Republicans are lazy bums that are worried about being over-worked with a (gasp!) 40-hour work week!

Now it looks as if the $3,300 pay raise members expected to start getting next month is in jeopardy. Pelosi and Reid have announced that they intend to block the pay increase, claiming that it is unconscionable to increase their own pay when the national minimum wage continues to be locked at $5.15.

Really though, the Dems are sounding more and more like the fiscal conservatives that I hoped they would. They are hoping to increase the productivity of Congress without raising the already high pay for members. When did the Democrats become responsible?

Monday, December 04, 2006

EXTRA EXTRA! Read All About It!

It’s the shock of the week! Hillary’s people have announced that she might be considering a possible run for the White House in 2008!

Oh, wait. That isn’t news at all! Nevermind.

But for a little fun, and to help out a friend’s website, check out this link:

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Do Your Part

As promised, I have compiled a short list of organizations and resources involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS

San Francisco AIDS Foundation
American Foundation for AIDS Research

Above all, though, know your own HIV status and get tested. There are locations near every community in the US that can provide tests for the disease that causes AIDS and provide counseling to determine your risk factors for the disease and help you to prevent contracting the virus.

National HIV Testing Centers

Check your local community for organizations that provide services to AIDS patients. Groups like Meals on Wheels, Hospice, and even churches often provide important services, companionship, and care to people dying from AIDS.