Partnership benefits more endangered
ST. PAUL – Minnesota legislators took steps Monday toward revoking insurance coverage for partners of gay and lesbian state workers, which some say would be a first-of-its-kind reversal of benefits by a public employer.
House and Senate committees approved bills to nullify the same-sex domestic-partner benefits extended in union contracts negotiated in 2001. Union leaders are supporting the concession, grudgingly, to prevent pay cuts for 44,500 employees that would occur if the Legislature doesn’t ratify the contracts.
“We’re simply bowing to the political realities,” said Russell Stanton, a lobbyist for a union representing state college professors.
Ten states and more than 150 local governments offer such benefits, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign.
Minnesota’s move would be “groundbreaking, in a reprehensible way,” said the campaign’s David Smith. “I’m not aware of any government entity taking away domestic-partner benefits from the work force,” he said.
Over the objections of Republican legislators two years ago, then-Gov. Jesse Ventura included the health coverage and bereavement leave in most state union contracts for this year and last.
The pacts have been in force pending the required legislative consent, which hasn’t occurred. If they are rejected or no action is taken before May 19, wages and benefits for all workers would revert to previous levels. Negotiations on new two-year contracts are about to begin.
Franciscans offer AIDS scholarship
CHICAGO – A college scholarship program is offering hope for the future to young patients with HIV and AIDS.
The scholarship is offered by Canticle Ministries, a nonprofit ministry run by the Wheaton Franciscan system that serves young people and adults with HIV and AIDS.
The first scholarships of up to $3,000 a year will be distributed this spring, but the anonymity of the recipients will be protected, said Brad Ogilvie, director of Canticle’s Ministries. That’s because many of them haven’t told people outside their families that they have the virus.
“What if we lived in a world that did not assume these kids would die from the disease that killed their parents but instead showered them with acceptance, love and hope?” Ogilvie asked.
Most of the scholarship applicants are in the adolescent HIV program at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital, where doctors, nurses and social workers helped Canticle develop its concept.
“I absolutely tell them they should be planning for their futures, including going to school and getting jobs,” said Dr. Robert Garofalo, director of Children’s adolescent HIV program. “We have to change mindsets because they can do so well.”
More than 27,000 young people between the ages of 13 and 24 are infected with HIV nationwide. That includes many who acquired the virus as infants from their mothers. Medicines are helping these children thrive.
Dual-parent adoption dies in committee
DENVER – A House committee killed a bill Tuesday that would have allowed gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.
Witnesses told the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee that gay and lesbian couples are being forced to choose one person or the other to become the legal parent and provide health and other benefits.
They said children of same-sex couples have trouble getting medical treatment, registering for school, and qualifying for other benefits like Social Security because only one parent has legal rights.
“It doesn’t create any rights for the gay couples, it basically creates rights for children,” said the sponsor, Rep. Alice Madden, D-Boulder.
Colorado has 10,000 gay couples, according to the latest Census figures. There were no official figures for the number of children being raised in gay households.
Bill would make hotels sell condoms
NEW YORK – Two state senators have proposed a law that would mandate New York’s hotels, motels and inns to make condoms available for sale to guests.
“You know hotel and motel gift shops sell toothpaste and they often have vending machines for those little ‘oodles of noodles,’ so why not condoms,” Sen. Carl Andrews told the New York Post in Thursday editions.
Earlier this month, Andrews and Velmanette Montgomery, both Democrats from Brooklyn, introduced their bill, which argues that such a law would help prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.
Some lawmakers have indicated they will oppose the legislation.
“There are better ways to raise public awareness about AIDS than to have the state make hotels put chocolates on the pillows and condoms underneath them,” John McArdle, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, told the Post.