In The “Snowball’s Chance” Category:

Leiberman, Smith introduce Federal domestic partners legislation:

Sen. Gordon Smith and Sen. Joe Lieberman introduced legislation that will extend domestic partner benefits to federal employees Wednesday, according to a press release from the U.S. Senate.

“The federal government should be leading the way rather than following when it comes to providing benefits,” Sen. Smith said.  “Rights and benefits must be afforded to all employees equally. This bill corrects the current inequity.” 

No way in hell is Bush going to sign this, but still it’s nice to see the effort being made.  Hopefully one day we’ll all be able to take care of our families adequately, no matter how they’re comprised.  We may soon have same-sex marriage in Vermont, and the tax-filing problems for gay couples alone if there’s a discrepancy between Federal and State policy are going to be a nightmare. 

Those problems are already happening:

She and her partner recently wrongfully were taxed by the state of Vermont on their health insurance payments after she was added to her partner’s policy, she said. This was apparently due to a software error that did not note they were joined in a civil union, she said, and it may have happened to other same-sex couples too.

As last night’s meeting in Montpelier showed, gay couples are proving that this we’re not “mocking” marriage–indeed, we’re strengthening it:

Members of the Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection heard only statements of support for moving past civil unions to same-sex marriage during the two-hour hearing at Montpelier’s Statehouse. . .

But of the 8,516 civil unions performed here since they became legal in 2001, only 161 have had their unions dissolved, he said, a rate likely far lower than the percentage of divorces during the same period.“A lot of people tend to think gays and lesbians are not normal,” Vinton joked. “Well, as far as marriage goes maybe they are right.”

Yer darned tootin’. (Too colliquial?  That means the statement before it was undeniably correct.)
 

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17 thoughts on “In The “Snowball’s Chance” Category:

  1. The federal government leading the way (insert derisive laughter here). Isn’t this the same federal government that banned homosexuals from even entering the country until 1991?

    If it wasn’t for the courageous actions of local and state government, the gay rights movement would not exist in the United States. Period.

    And every time the federal government does anything, it’s to make the situation worse for gays rather than better (DOMA, DADT, “protecting” the Boy Scouts, faith based initiatives on safe sex, wasting time on FMA, vetoing DC domestic partnerships). Frankly, I’d rather Congress and the White House just leave us the Hell alone.

  2. I think there are ways around the insurance issue without touching the dreaded third-rail of having Washington deal with same-sex partners or homosexuality directly.

    In Canada, for instance, the provinces manage the health care system. And before the onset of federally recognized gay marriage in 2005, each province got to decide who gets those spousal benefits. It doesn’t matter whether the individuals are privately or publically employed. The federal government merely reimbursed the locals for a set amount every year.

    Pensions are far more problematic, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I do think we need to put our eggs elsewhere though. Gays are locked in an abusive relationship with the federal government. We keep on saying “he’ll change”, only to have Uncle Sam screw us over again next year.

  3. LOL….unfortunately, Jamie, that comparison of divorces to civil union dissolutions leaves out one important thing — the different situation for the two.

    You may get married in Vermont regardless of whether you are a resident of the state, and you may get a divorce in any other state even if you were married in Vermont.

    However, for civil unions, you may create one in Vermont even if you are not a resident, but you cannot dissolve it unless you have lived in the state for at least a year prior — and numerous court cases in other states have established the principle that they cannot dissolve a relationship they don’t legally recognize.

    In short, there is a legal and financial barrier to dissolving a civil union that doesn’t exist for marriage; therefore, the comparison of numbers from the two is not valid.

  4. So, basically, you’re arguing for more recognition of same-sex couples.

    As more states recognize same-sex unions, the idea that you can simply “run off” to avoid a divorce judgment will dissapear. You’ll probably see the Attorney Generals of the civil union / domestic partnership states getting together to discuss the issue sooner or later.

    Even today, a New Jersey judge would probably have little trouble serving up warrants on same-sex deadbeats who leave Vermont to avoid paying alimony or child support.

  5. Without seeing specific numbers, NDT, I’m not sure that financial barrier you speak of is any greater than a similar one in a heterosexual marriage, namely the “She’ll take half” meme. Heterosexual marriages break up at differing rates as well for a multitude of reasons, so simply pointing to a resident requirement (which actually states that only one partner must be a resident of Vermont for six months before proceedings can begin on dissolution and a resident for a year before a judgment can be granted…many heterosexual divorces take that long as well, if not longer) and saying this presents a skewing effect may be true in a small number of cases, but doesn’t provide a strong enough argument to suggest the comparison is invalid.

    Truthfully, the safest comparison would be to only consider Vermont residents who have entered into civil unions and then had them dissolve versus Vermont residents who have been married and divorced over similar time rates. However, a broad conclusion can be drawn from the initial numbers in light of the divorce rate in Vermont.

    As divorce rates over the first three years of the civil union policy in Vermont hovered at around 42%, of the 1,567 Vermont residents involved in a civil union (giving 784 actual unions), even assuming all 13 dissolutions happened in that specific population, that still gives a Vermont-resident specific dissolution rate of 13/784×100%= 1.7%, well below the rate of Vermont-resident specific divorce. So while a financial barrier of unspecified strength may exist for those seeking to dissolve their civil unions and who are not Vermont residents, those seeking to dissolve their civil unions who are Vermont residents are still a vanishingly small percentage, far smaller than those wishing to dissolve their marriages. Jamie’s quoted comparison still stands.

    Furthermore, as states are confronted with the reality of Vermont’s civil unions, it will necessitate the development of legal protocols for dissolution of those unions under individual state law. As this happens, the financial barrier will evaporate and then positive whole-country numbers can be figured.

    Finally, there’s the question of determination. It seems unlikely that many of these couples who have worked for years to establish their relationships and bore the brunt of financial hardship to get to Vermont and have a civil union performed would show any less determination in dissolving their union should the situation become untenable. While there are certainly ugly cases making the news, there’s no reason to assume that all of these dissolutions are of equal messy hostility and reproach.

  6. Even today, a New Jersey judge would probably have little trouble serving up warrants on same-sex deadbeats who leave Vermont to avoid paying alimony or child support.

    Child support has nothing to do with a previous relationship, only with whether or not the adult has any legal responsibility for the child. You can demand child support even if you aren’t married to the father or mother of the child. Alimony can be claimed in the same fashion as long as you were substantially responsible for providing for the other party.

    Without seeing specific numbers, NDT, I’m not sure that financial barrier you speak of is any greater than a similar one in a heterosexual marriage, namely the “She’ll take half” meme.

    Put bluntly, QJ, civil union dissolutions not only require the “s/he’ll take half” in the same fashion as a marriage, since they are adjudicated under Vermont family law, but they also require you to live in the state for a year prior to even filing for one.

    Furthermore, if you don’t file for one, it really doesn’t hurt you any as long as you’re outside the state of Vermont, and quite frankly, the barrier is such that it makes it virtually unenforceable.

    For instance, say you and I got a civil union in Vermont and then moved to Missouri. We buy a house. We split. You try to get your half of the house by invoking the civil union.

    The Missouri court doesn’t recognize the union; therefore you have no grounds to sue.

    Thus, your option, if you want your half of the house and to remove the civil union, is to file a dissolution in Vermont and get the family court to recognize your claim, which is a judgment that the court in Missouri WILL recognize.

    However, you have to move to Vermont for a year and establish residency before you are even eligible to file the dissolution — which requires you to uproot your life and head to the East Coast to get half of a house in Missouri.

    Can you see why most people just wouldn’t bother? And that’s when you have something at stake; what about those couples who just decide to split and be done with it amicably? Do you really think they’re going to waste the effort of moving to Vermont for a year just to dissolve a legal relationship that has no effect on them outside Vermont?

  7. {{ Child support has nothing to do with a previous relationship, only with whether or not the adult has any legal responsibility for the child. }}

    In the case of gays and lesbians, it does matter because at least one party isn’t the biological parent. And the nature of that “previous relationship” is the glue that held that familial unit together. This was precisely the point of Sharon S v Superior Court, a case that the California Supreme Court decided in 2003.

    In fact, conservative Justice Janice Rogers Brown stated in her dissent that allowing unregistered same-sex partners to adopt would “trivialize family bonds.” Brown further claimed that granting parental visitation to Sharon S’ partner would contradict the “legislature’s insistence that the adopting parent have a legal relationship with the birth parent.” She specifically cites Section 297 of the Family Code as the legitimate means through which that legal relationship is formed.

    Of course, Brown’s argument was ultimately rejected by the majority (who embraced a holistic view of same-sex parenting that doesn’t involve the formality of becoming domestic partners). But the issue was debated, so saying the legal status of same-sex couples has “nothing” to do with parenting is a stretch.

  8. Put bluntly, QJ, civil union dissolutions not only require the “s/he’ll take half” in the same fashion as a marriage, since they are adjudicated under Vermont family law, but they also require you to live in the state for a year prior to even filing for one.

    And put bluntly, NDT, while the scope of Jamie’s quoted comparison may be off, the tenor of the comparison is dead on. The fact remains that given a comparison of Vermont-Specific civil union dissolutions to Vermont-Specific divorces, thus eliminating the additional financial burden barrier, the dissolution percentage is still extremely far below the divorce percentage even including all the dissolutions, Vermont-resident and not, in the first three years of Vermont civil unions. Given the extreme difference in rates, I find it highly specious that the only thing preventing dissolutions of non-Vermont resident’s civil unions are the financial burden. Thus the comparison is still applicable until you show that is the specific reason that gays and lesbians are now trapped in loveless civil unions to a percentage higher than divorces.

    I’m not saying individual dissolutions of non-Vermont resident civil-unions aren’t messy or complex, simply that the comparison between divorce rate and dissolution rate is entirely valid given the extreme differences in rates in the baseline state.

    Furthermore, again, you can file your dissolution at six months of residency, but can not have a judgment rendered by a Vermont court until at least one half of the filing couple has a year of residency in Vermont. As I said before, while you throw up a good number of obstacles and roadblocks that would certainly make obtaining a fair and equitable dissolution of a civil union difficult, you have not established that this added layer of complexity has any impact on the preservation or dissolution of civil unions.

    Just because something is hard doesn’t mean people won’t do it. While I can understand why some might not bother, you must also understand that the majority of these people have been fighting for legally recognized same-sex partnerships for quite some time through very hard conditions. That fact alone indicates a mindset that is not easily dissuaded when a decision has been reached. I don’t see any compelling reason to believe that gays and lesbians who fought so hard to get into civil unions in the first place would fight any less hard to get out of them when it goes sour.

  9. NDT: For instance, say you and I got a civil union in Vermont and then moved to Missouri. We buy a house. We split. You try to get your half of the house

    Now that’s a reality show I would watch.

  10. As divorce rates over the first three years of the civil union policy in Vermont hovered at around 42%, of the 1,567 Vermont residents involved in a civil union (giving 784 actual unions), even assuming all 13 dissolutions happened in that specific population, that still gives a Vermont-resident specific dissolution rate of 13/784×100%= 1.7%, well below the rate of Vermont-resident specific divorce.

    QJ, where, exactly, did you get that “13” number?

    Because according to Vermont records, there were 14 dissolutions in 2003 alone, with there being 36 in 2004.

    Furthermore, what is the median length of marriages in years in Vermont?

    Given the extreme difference in rates, I find it highly specious that the only thing preventing dissolutions of non-Vermont resident’s civil unions are the financial burden.

    In 2003, almost 90% of the civil unions contracted in Vermont were by non-residents. In order for these people to dissolve their unions, they would have had to move to Vermont and stay there for at least one year.

    Could you realistically uproot your entire life and move to Vermont for one year, QJ, especially when it would make no difference whatsoever whether your civil union was dissolved or not if you were living outside of Vermont?

  11. The statistics for the first three years of civil unions in Vermont (2000-2002) came from GayDemographics.org which in turn relayed them from the U.S. Census Bureau data.

    Certainly the numbers climb, but again taking the pragmatic view, it doesn’t affect the statistical levels in any meaningful way. Unfortunately, I was only able to find reliable data up to 2004, but even still, using the number of dissolutions to date, around 161, and assuming that all of those dissolutions were Vermont-resident specific, we can figure the number of of total Vermont-resident specific civil unions via Vermont’s own Department of Health’s website by adding up the yearly data. This gives us, between 2000 and 2004, 1089 Vermont-Resident specific civil unions performed. Even hugely skewing the statistics and using all 161 dissolutions, both Vermont-resident specific and not, over the course of the seven years the statute has been in effect, that still gives us only a 15% dissolution rate.

    Divorce rate for Vermont-specific marriages from 2000-2004 are somewhat harder to establish and certain assumptions must be made which may skew the data. Chiefly, the assumption is that, while for civil union dissolution the union in question must specifically file in Vermont, divorce is available in any state. As there are no specific eases to Vermont divorce law such as in Nevada, it is reasonable to assume that the overwhelming majority of divorce proceedings initiated in Vermont are at the request of Vermont residents. With around 19,322 Vermont-specific marriages between 2000-2004 and 12,763 divorce proceedings filed in a Vermont county by a married couple with children under the age of 18, you have a reasonable approximation of the Vermont-specific divorce rate at 66% for a comparable time period.

    Yes, these figures are fast and loose because I have neither the time not energy to find figures for the full seven year run of Vermont civil unions. Even given their approximations, though, the messages is still the same: In comparison to divorce rates, and with the removal of the financial burden of a Vermont civil union dissolution, the rate of dissolution is far lower than the rate of divorce, thus the initial comparison is valid.

    Median length of marriage is irrelevant.

    In 2003, almost 90% of the civil unions contracted in Vermont were by non-residents.

    Again, though, in terms of the specific discussion, this is irrelevant as you have yet to show any concrete numbers suggesting that the only reason dissolution rates are higher is because of financial burden. Further, I’m specifically only considering Vermont civil unions and dissolutions and even then painting them in the worst light possible as I only take the number of Vermont-resident-specific civil unions in the first four years of the legislations and use the total number of dissolutions of all civil union from Vermont over all seven years of the legislation.

    The comparison is valid until you show conclusive data that the only thing keeping those dissolution numbers that low is the financial burden.

    Could you realistically uproot your entire life and move to Vermont for one year, QJ, especially when it would make no difference whatsoever whether your civil union was dissolved or not if you were living outside of Vermont?

    I’ve answered that and said I understand that it may be hard. However, I ask yet again, given that the individuals who have pursued these “no difference whatsoever” unions in Vermont have done so for many years prior, usually at significant personal hardship and expense, why exactly is it that you feel they would have a change in their fundamental character and be dissuaded from seeking a dissolution, regardless of hardship? As you imply, these unions are more about the spirit of the thing rather than the legality for those who reside outside of Vermont or other states that recognize civil unions. That spirit, though, was initially fought for, so why would its dissolution be any less important?

  12. With around 19,322 Vermont-specific marriages between 2000-2004 and 12,763 divorce proceedings filed in a Vermont county by a married couple with children under the age of 18, you have a reasonable approximation of the Vermont-specific divorce rate at 66% for a comparable time period.

    If you assume that none of those marriages were done prior to 2000, sure.

    But the problem here is, QJ, you’re taking something that has only been in effect for a few years and comparing it to something that has been in effect ad infinitum. Using your statistics, a couple that had been married prior to 2000 and decided to divorce in 2003 would be included in your count of divorces, but not in your count of marriages. In addition, a couple who got married in New Jersey, but divorced in Vermont, would count as a divorce in your statistics, but not as a marriage. Both of these things would radically skew your divorce number upward.

    Further, I’m specifically only considering Vermont civil unions and dissolutions and even then painting them in the worst light possible as I only take the number of Vermont-resident-specific civil unions in the first four years of the legislations and use the total number of dissolutions of all civil union from Vermont over all seven years of the legislation.

    But that’s the problem, QJ; you can get a civil union without being a resident, but you CAN’T get a dissolution without being a resident. It is no hardship at all to get a Vermont civil union; all you have to do is get you and your partner to Vermont, sign some paperwork, pay the fee, and you’re out the door.

    In order to dissolve it, one of you actually has to move to Vermont for a year. But, if you think about it, as long as you stay outside Vermont, the civil union has no legal force. It means nothing. Heck, theoretically, under California law, you could dump your partner and enter a new domestic partnership with someone else entirely, as long as you both hadn’t already petitioned the state to have your existing civil union recognized as a domestic partnership.

    And that’s the point. For heterosexuals, you CAN’T marry someone in Vermont, dump them, and then marry someone in California; it’s bigamy. But you also don’t have to move back to Vermont for a year; you can dissolve the marriage in California and be done with it. For gays, it’s exactly the reverse; you have to move back to Vermont for a year to dissolve the civil union, but you can dump them and partner with someone in California without having any problems.

    In short, since there’s no hardship involved in getting the civil union and little to no hardship involved in just ignoring it and dumping your partner, I find it hard to believe that these people would actually bother moving to Vermont for a year to dissolve something when they can just ignore it with virtually no consequences.

  13. Certainly, you could make the argument that part of the 12,763 marriages ending in divorce occurred prior to 2000. However, I would then say that this is expanding the argument beyond the parameters of the initial comparison into terms of absolute longevity.

    To make your argument, though, I would task you to correct the statistic and find numbers of Vermont-resident specific marriages that began and ended between 2000 and 2004. I would also task you with finding specific numbers of civil unions between Vermont residents that began and ended between 2000 and 2004. Until then, the comparison has not been invalidated.

    you can get a civil union without being a resident, but you CAN’T get a dissolution without being a resident.

    Which is EXACTLY WHY I’m considering Vermont-resident marriages, divorces, civil unions and dissolutions, to control for that aspect. Until you specifically show data indicating that the financial burden is the cause of the vastly different scales

    I find it hard to believe that these people would actually bother moving to Vermont for a year to dissolve something when they can just ignore it with virtually no consequences.

    Great, you’re certainly entitled to your beliefs. Just remember that until you show otherwise, the available data suggests your beliefs are incorrect.

  14. If you look at the statute, it is very clear that domestic partnerships includes both spousal rights and responsibilities. Presumably, part of your spousal “responsibilities” would involve not engaging in bigamy:

    297.5 (a) Registered domestic partners shall have the same rights,
    protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same
    responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law, whether they
    derive from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules,
    government policies, common law, or any other provisions or sources
    of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.

    Furthermore, California seems to recognize Vermont’s civil union law:

    299.2. A legal union of two persons of the same sex, other than a
    marriage, that was validly formed in another jurisdiction, and that
    is substantially equivalent to a domestic partnership as defined in
    this part, shall be recognized as a valid domestic partnership in
    this state regardless of whether it bears the name domestic
    partnership.

    Thus, it is entirely reasonable to believe that being simultaneously partnered to different persons – whether it was accomplished in this state or not – would violate the following:

    297 (b) A domestic partnership shall be established in California when
    both persons file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the
    Secretary of State pursuant to this division, and, at the time of
    filing, all of the following requirements are met:

    (2) Neither person is married to someone else or is a member of
    another domestic partnership with someone else that has not been
    terminated, dissolved, or adjudged a nullity.

  15. Not necessarily, John.

    The loophole is that 299.2 only applies if you choose to invoke it. You can petition for a Vermont civil union to be recognized in the same fashion as a California domestic partnership is, but it’s not automatically assumed that it is. The prohibitions in 297(b)(2) have to do primarily with having another California registered domestic partnership.

    Furthermore, because of Proposition 22, you can be married in Massachusetts and have a California domestic partnership with someone else entirely — since California does not under any circumstances recognize same-sex marriage.

    However, I would then say that this is expanding the argument beyond the parameters of the initial comparison into terms of absolute longevity.

    Problem is, you are. You are comparing marriages of indeterminate length to civil unions that have been in effect a very short and fixed time.

  16. At the risk of getting into a “Nuh-uh, Yuh-huh” argument, I am doing no such thing, NDT. I’ve admitted there are issues with the comparison and have tried to control for as many of those issues as possible to validate the comparison and offered suggestions as to how the argument can be further explored. I’ve said exactly what sort of data you need to provide to show that my validation may be inaccurate and you haven’t provided it.

    I put it out there again, if the data to back up your assumptions exists, present it. Until then, the given data indicate that your assumptions are incorrect.

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