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Local and national gay-rights groups praised Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis for signing a new history-making law that offers domestic partners in California a significant and unprecedented array of benefits. The bill, signed by Davis in a ceremony in Sacramento on Sunday, puts California, the nations' largest state, in the forefront of a growing trend to treat lesbian and gay families with the dignity and respect they deserve, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

At the ceremony, Davis underscored the significance of the new law when he said, "This bill is about responsibility, respect, and most of all about family...and it's about time."

"We salute Gov. Gray Davis for signing the bill into law and Assemblymember Carole Migden and her fellow legislators for passing this comprehensive measure," said Jean Harris, executive director of the California Alliance for Pride and Equality. "Families will finally have some of the crucial tools necessary to take care of one another in times of crises and difficult situations."

"This is a significant leap forward and puts California behind only Vermont in offering equality and fair treatment to same-sex couples," said HRC National Field Director Seth Klbourn. "There are thousands of domestic partners in California and many more to come who will be helped tremendously by the wisdom and vision of Davis, [ legislator Carole ] Migden, and CAPE's Harris."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California hailed the signing. "No other state in America has made these kinds of strides in recognition of same-sex couples without being forced to do so by a lawsuit," the group stated. "That makes California a political leader in recognizing same-sex couples and their families."

The law goes into effect, Jan. 1 and also allows opposite-sex couples to register if one or both partners are over 62 years of age. It will give registered partners new ways to protect their families and ensures several basic rights, including to:

... Make medical decisions in the hospital or act as a conservator.

... Be exempt from state income tax for the health benefits provided to partners.

... Continue health benefits for surviving partners of government employees and retirees.

... Sue for wrongful death as well as seek damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

... Use sick leave to care for an ill partner or the child of a domestic partner.

... Relocate with a domestic partner without losing unemployment benefits.

... File disability benefits on behalf of an incapacitated partner.

... Administer a partner's estate.

... Bequeath property to a domestic partner using the statutory will.

... Adopt a partner's child using the stepparent adoption process.

Delaware Dads Now Both Legal Parents

Two youngsters in Delaware now share two legal fathers thanks to a ruling that allowed a gay man to adopt his partner's children, said Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represented the father.

Having been born premature and cocaine addicted, both boys were considered "difficult to place" by the foster care system. Nevertheless, the children thrived in the care of their adopted father, Gene Hart, and his long-term partner, Burke Shiri, whose real names are being kept confidential to protect the children's privacy.

Gene adopted one child in 1999, the other in 2000, and Burke functioned alongside him in every way as a parent to the boys. In June of last year, he filed a petition for adoption of the two children under Delaware's adoption provision.

"In raising my children I provide them with what my parents have given and the security of a happy home," Burke said.

The Delaware family court Friday approved what is known as a second-parent adoption, making clear that both fathers, gay men who have lived together for 22 years, are equal parents, and giving significant protection to the children, ages six and one. Second-parent adoption allows a person to adopt the children of his or her partner without terminating the first parent's legal status as a parent. In his decision, Chief Judge Vincent J. Poppiti found that granting this adoption was in the children's best interest.

"In fact and in law what does matter in their best interests is that Peter and George ( pseudonyms ) have already begun to reap the benefits of the love of these two men, and have even in their tender years returned it in kind," Poppiti writes in his decision. "... [ W ] hat does matter in the best interests of Peter and George is that they are thriving in the environment created by Gene Hart and Burke Shiri."

This is the first time a second-parent adoption has been granted to a gay family in Delaware, said Lambda Cooperating Attorney Norman C. Simon of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP.



The nation's largest gay Republican organization applauded President Bush and the House of Representatives for pushing a $112 million funding increase for the Ryan White CARE Act.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor/HHS, chaired by Rep. Ralph Regula ( R-Ohio ) , voted Oct. 4 to add the Ryan White increase. LCR joined White House Director of National AIDS Policy Scott Evertz in lobbying the committee.

More than half of the increase is earmarked for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program ( ADAP ) , which funds access to HIV/AIDS drug treatments through state AIDS directors.

As the bill moved to the floor of the House, the White House communicated a Statement of Administration Policy ( SAP ) adding its support for the increase in Ryan White funding.

The White House SAP builds on President Bush's budget request for a $2.5 billion increase in research funding at the National Institutes of Health, and the announcement of a $200 million seed grant to a global trust fund to build infrastructure and provide treatment in the fight against AIDS in Africa, LCR said.

Gay groups will work now in the Senate to make sure the $112 million funding increase for Ryan White remains.


The International Network of Lesbian and Gay Officials ( INLGO ) , the world's largest nonprofit organization committed to supporting and educating openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender officials and leaders, will host its 17th annual conference in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15-18.

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