Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Around The Nation

Missouri Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Case Of Gay State Trooper Whose Same-Sex Partner Was Denied Death Benefits
Kelly Glossip & Dennis Engelhard * Family Photo
JEFFERSON CITY, MO -- The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case that could allow same sex partners of the state's employees to receive death benefits from the state pension system. Currently, such benefits are limited to surviving married spouses and dependent children which excludes gay and lesbian couples because Missouri’s constitution defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.
The suit contesting the employee benefits law’s constitutionality was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Kelly Glossip who was in a relationship for nearly 15 years with Missouri Highway Patrol Corporal Dennis Engelhard.
Trooper Engelhard was killed in the line of duty on Christmas Day 2009 as he was assisting a motorist when he was hit by a car that had lost control on Interstate 44. According to the ACLU, the suit is not challenging the definition of marriage under Missouri law — which is, one man and one woman — but is challenging the benefits policy as a violation of his rights under the Missouri Constitution.
The suit argues that even though a 2004 vote prohibits gay marriage, it does not keep the state from offering domestic partner benefits.
The pension system, the suit says, “categorically excludes same-sex domestic partners from valuable benefits provided to similarly situated heterosexual couples,” a violation, according to the suit, of the section of the state constitution that provides equal protection under the law.
Glossip’s lawyer, Maurice B. Graham, told the court that the relationship Engelhard and Glossip shared was “almost synonymous with opposite-sex, husband and wife” relationships. The couple owned a home together, had joint checking and savings accounts, and were rearing Glossip’s son from a previous marriage. 
Graham told the justices that the 2001 state law spelling out that only opposite-sex spouses are eligible for death benefits sets up a special category based on sexual orientation. Legislators “were making it clear that gay people in a committed relationship were not in any circumstance going to get these death benefits,” he said.
Missouri Assistant Attorney General James R. Ward- representing the state's Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol Employees’ Retirement System- argued that the pension law provides support for those most likely to be dependent – opposite-sex spouses and children – and does not violate the equal protection clause of the constitution.
“This is not a special law,” Ward said. “It’s open-ended because the class as described under the statute is for spouses.” Ward added that allowing same-sex partners to receive survivor benefits would have “tremendous ramifications for employee benefits statewide.”
Graham countered arguing that the state could outline guidleines for “very, very carefully drawn” criteria for domestic partner benefits, to ensure that only long-term, committed relationships were covered.
"Not every couple who happen to be gay or lesbians would meet the requirements," Graham said to the assembled capital press corps after the hearing. 
"There has to be this long-term, interdependent commitment, a sharing that goes with whether you're opposite sex or same-sex. Their relationship is what's key."
More Fortune 500 Companies Plus Major Cities File DOMA Brief
BOSTON, MA -- Nearly 300 corporations, cities, and other organizations, some of whom also appeared on Tuesday's Prop 8 brief, filed an Amicus Brief Wednesday with the U. S. Supreme Court supporting the overturn of the Defence of Marriage Act.
Included were financial institutions, medical centers, health care providers and of health-care coverage, airlines, builders, energy and high technology businesses, manufacturers, media companies, insurers, along with pharmaceutical companies, law and professional groups.
Joining the filing as well, according to lead counsel, Boston litigator Sabin Willett, were the cities of Baltimore, Bangor, Boston, Cambridge, Hartford, Healdsburg, Los Angeles, New York, Northampton, Portsmouth, Providence, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Seattle, and West Hollywood. 
Some of those appearing on this filing also joined in the Amicus Brief in the other case before the high court dealing with overturning California's Prop 8 which also bans same-sex marriage. 
[, Apple, Bank of New York, CBS, Cisco Systems, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Facebook, Google, JetBlue, Johnson & Johnson, Levi Strauss & Co, Liberty Mutual, Marriott International, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, NIKE, Pfizer, Starbucks, Twitter, Viacom, Walt Disney Company and Xerox.]
Counsel presented the Amici writing:  
We are employers or associations of employers, and we share a desire to attract, retain, and secure a talented workforce. We are located in or operate in states that recognize marriages of certain of our employees and colleagues to spouses of the same sex. At the same time, we are subject to section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), which precludes federal recognition of these marriages. 
This dual regime uniquely burdens amici. It puts us, as employers, to unnecessary cost and administrative complexity, and regardless of our business or professional judgment forces us to treat one class of our lawfully married employees differently than another, when our success depends upon the welfare and morale of all employees. Amici write to advise the Court concerning the impact on the employer of these conflicting legal regimes. 
The ACLU reported via press release that other supporters, including religious leaders, retired military personnel, children’s rights groups and former cabinet secretaries are expected to file their briefs later this week.

Six Million American Children and Adults Have an LGBT Parent
The Williams Institute releases national study analyzing LGBT parenting demographics
Courtesy of the Williams Institute
LOS ANGELES -- A national study released Wednesday showed that an estimated 37% of LGBT Americans have had a child, meaning as many as six million American children and adults have an LGBT parent.
The findings were released in a national study by the University of California Law School's Williams Institute. Williams research scholar Gary J. Gates said;
“These analyses highlight the diversity and prevalence of LGBT parents and their children in the U.S.  The data show that LGBT families are clearly part of modern American life.”
According to Gates, the study entitled; “LGBT Parenting in the United States,” provides a demographic portrait of LGBT parenting in the United States. The report found that same-sex couple parents and their children are more likely to be racial and ethnic minorities. An estimated 39 percent of individuals in same-sex couples with children under age 18 at home are non-white, as are half of their children.  LGBT parents live in states from coast to coast, but many do not actually live on the coasts.
States with the highest proportions of same-sex couples raising biological, adopted or step-children include Mississippi (26%), Wyoming (25%), Alaska (23%), Idaho (22%), and Montana (22%).
The report also found that LGBT individuals and same-sex couples raising children face greater economic challenges than their non-LGBT counterparts. Single LGBT adults raising children are three times more likely than comparable non-LGBT individuals to report household incomes near the poverty threshold.
Married or partnered LGBT individuals living in two-adult households with children are twice as likely as comparable non-LGBT individuals to report household incomes near the poverty threshold.
Several factors likely contribute to the relative economic disadvantages of same-sex couples with children, including that LGB parents are more likely to be female, black, Latino/a, and younger than their different-sex counterparts. In the U.S., all of these groups, on average, have lower incomes.
The demographic study is the result of analysis from several data sources, including the 2008/2010 General Social Survey, the Gallup Daily Tracking Survey, Census 2010, and the Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey (ACS).