Posts Tagged ‘same-sex’
SAME-SEX relationships in the Australian Defence Force have moved a step closer to formal recognition following the introduction of commonwealth laws ensuring equal treatment of financial benefits and superannuation payments to personnel regardless of sexual preference.
The laws, to be introduced on January 1, mark a significant step forward in the recognition of same-sex relationships for ADF members, Defence Science and Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon said yesterday.
The Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws — Superannuation) Act 2008 ensures same-sex couples are treated the same as heterosexual couples for the purposes of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948 and the Defence Force Retirement and Deaths Benefits Act 1973.
“Same-sex partners of ADF members will no longer be denied the payment of death benefits from superannuation schemes,” Mr Snowdon said.
“What these laws do, is they’re a continuation of our election commitment to remove same-sex discrimination from a broad range of commonwealth laws. Defence is encouraging a fair, safe and very inclusive workplace where we respect all persons regardless of their sexual inclination.”
ADF service members in same-sex relationships would now receive exactly the same conditions of service as those in married or de facto relationships, he added.
The tax concessions on death benefits, which are currently available only to heterosexual couples, will from January 1 be available to same-sex couples.
“These changes further reinforce the ADF’s commitment to recognition of same-sex relationships, seen in areas such as the Defence Home Owners Scheme and access to Royal Australian Air Force veterans’ residences,” Mr Snowdon said.
In 1992, under pressure from the Keating Labor government, the ADF lifted its ban on openly gay and lesbian soldiers.
At the time, the change in policy met strong resistance from service chiefs and defence service organisations, but the issue has since faded from the public stage, after it failed to fulfil warnings it would damage defence recruitment and combat-effectiveness.
Experts say evidence of the lifting of the gay ban on ADF members is scarce, but indicates there has been no decline in operational effectiveness.
The latest changes come in the wake of significant and continuing reforms to the national military justice system.
Gloom and doom are all the rage around the water coolers these days for same-sex marriage supporters. Not only did Prop 8 in California reverse gay nuptials, the future of gay marriage looks murky as we peer across the country. Or so it seems.
While some express despair, anticipated legislative victories across the Northeast may prove to be a turning point for equal marriage rights.
Marc Solomon, political director of MassEquality, sees brighter days on the horizon. The organization recently launched a program called “6 by 12” — with the goal of marriage equality in all six New England states by 2012. In addition, the gay-friendly governors of New York and New Jersey have indicated they would sign same-sex marriage into law.
But while gay marriage slowly advances in certain parts of the country, it faces setbacks in others. As New England proceeds with regional harmony, since 2004 thirty states have amended their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage. Additionally, the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids the federal government from recognizing any state’s same-sex marriage, remains frozen in its 1990s time warp, unlikely to be overturned even by a Democratic Congress.
Yet attitudes on marriage are clearly changing. A recent nationwide survey published in Newsweek reveals that for the first time a slight majority opposes amending the Constitution to prohibit gay marriage. As recently as 2004, a strong majority supported such a ban; and the same Newsweek poll showed that almost two-thirds of younger voters support gay marriage, which augurs well for future elections.
In the short run, the road remains bumpy, but marriage equality is a notoriously recent phenomenon. Even in Massachusetts, the fate of same-sex marriage once hung in the balance.
Unlike our state, which had the luxury of time to change hearts and minds, California voters just scuttled same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, the 2008 margin narrowed since the question appeared in 2000 and current polling suggests it wouldn’t pass again.
Even with recent setbacks elsewhere, New England’s forecast — for once — should be a lot less gloomy. Our neck of the woods is once again poised to be the Hub of the Universe.
Antigay-rights activist seeks to ban same-sex benefits
By Bill Varian, Janet Zink and Beth Reinhard, Times/Herald Staff Writers
TAMPA — Seeking to capitalize on statewide passage of a gay marriage ban, a leading antigay-rights activist is setting his sights on same-sex domestic partnership benefits.
David Caton, executive director of the Florida Family Association, says he will seek a change to the Hillsborough County Charter in 2010 to pre-emptively ban same-sex benefits for county employees.
Efforts to recruit volunteers and collect signatures from voters to get the issue on the ballot will begin early next year, he said.
In interviews with the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald on Thursday, Caton sought to frame the issue as a fiscal, as much a moral, argument.
“We’re going to use the momentum from the marriage amendment to speak to the fact that most people in this state don’t want a recognition of that type of relationship,” Caton said. “At this time of economic stress, our government should not be providing benefits to nonemployees on the basis on their sexual relationships.”
Gay-rights activists said any such effort by Caton will only galvanize an already motivated bloc of Hillsborough County voters. Those voters have shown greater evidence of organization and hustle in rallying for candidates and causes they support.
“We’ve got a coalition now, and we’ve got people who will work very, very hard to ensure he is not successful,” said Sally Phillips, president of the Hillsborough County Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Allied Democratic Caucus. “He’ll have a fight on his hands.”
In addition to passage of Amendment 2, Caton said he probably would not be pursuing the matter at this time if not for the election of openly gay County Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who won office Nov. 4. He cited strong turnout at Beckner’s swearing-in Tuesday as evidence that his supporters will press him to pursue a gay-rights agenda.
“I think the heavy turnout for his swearing-in was more than just friendship; it was a politically motivated event,” Caton said.
Beckner did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Hillsborough County does not offer domestic partnership benefits to employees, although the city of Tampa does. A change to the County Charter would not affect city employees.
The city’s benefits, however, also figure in Caton’s strategy.
Caton said he would seek to use the political momentum of a Hillsborough charter change to influence Tampa elections for City Council and mayor in 2011. With gay marriage bans getting passed in several states, he called same-sex domestic partner benefits the next frontier in the gay-rights battle.
“Domestic partnership will be the battlefield between the pro-family agenda and the gay-radical agenda,” Caton said. “They’re saying it,” and he and other like-minded people are prepared to respond, he said.
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio said Caton’s efforts will not pressure the city to change its policies. A majority of City Council members have said they would not seek to end same-sex benefits.
“We are going to continue our domestic partner benefits,” Iorio said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe said Caton is seeking to address a problem that doesn’t exist. In the meantime, the county is facing major challenges, he said.
“My focus is going to be 100 percent on solving some weighty issues: job creation, transportation,” Sharpe said. “I’m going to spend the next two years trying to figure out how to bring people together to address quality-of-life issues.”
by Tara Parker Pope
For insights into healthy marriages, social scientists are looking in an unexpected place.
A growing body of evidence shows that same-sex couples have a great deal to teach everyone else about marriage and relationships. Most studies show surprisingly few differences between committed gay couples and committed straight couples, but the differences that do emerge have shed light on the kinds of conflicts that can endanger heterosexual relationships.
The findings offer hope that some of the most vexing problems are not necessarily entrenched in deep-rooted biological differences between men and women. And that, in turn, offers hope that the problems can be solved.
Next week, California will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, reigniting the national debate over gay marriage. But relationship researchers say it also presents an opportunity to study the effects of marriage on the quality of all relationships.
“When I look at what’s happening in California, I think there’s a lot to be learned to explore how human beings relate to one another,” said Sondra E. Solomon, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Vermont. “How people care for each other, how they share responsibility, power and authority — those are the key issues in relationships.”
The stereotype for same-sex relationships is that they do not last. But that may be due, in large part, to the lack of legal and social recognition given to same-sex couples. Studies of dissolution rates vary widely.
After Vermont legalized same-sex civil unions in 2000, researchers surveyed nearly 1,000 couples, including same-sex couples and their heterosexual married siblings. The focus was on how the relationships were affected by common causes of marital strife like housework, sex and money.
Notably, same-sex relationships, whether between men or women, were far more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. In heterosexual couples, women did far more of the housework; men were more likely to have the financial responsibility; and men were more likely to initiate sex, while women were more likely to refuse it or to start a conversation about problems in the relationship. With same-sex couples, of course, none of these dichotomies were possible, and the partners tended to share the burdens far more equally.
While the gay and lesbian couples had about the same rate of conflict as the heterosexual ones, they appeared to have more relationship satisfaction, suggesting that the inequality of opposite-sex relationships can take a toll.
“Heterosexual married women live with a lot of anger about having to do the tasks not only in the house but in the relationship,” said Esther D. Rothblum, a professor of women’s studies at San Diego State University. “That’s very different than what same-sex couples and heterosexual men live with.”
Other studies show that what couples argue about is far less important than how they argue. The egalitarian nature of same-sex relationships appears to spill over into how those couples resolve conflict.
One well-known study used mathematical modeling to decipher the interactions between committed gay couples. The results, published in two 2003 articles in The Journal of Homosexuality, showed that when same-sex couples argued, they tended to fight more fairly than heterosexual couples, making fewer verbal attacks and more of an effort to defuse the confrontation.
Controlling and hostile emotional tactics, like belligerence and domineering, were less common among gay couples.
Same-sex couples were also less likely to develop an elevated heartbeat and adrenaline surges during arguments. And straight couples were more likely to stay physically agitated after a conflict.
“When they got into these really negative interactions, gay and lesbian couples were able to do things like use humor and affection that enabled them to step back from the ledge and continue to talk about the problem instead of just exploding,” said Robert W. Levenson, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.
The findings suggest that heterosexual couples need to work harder to seek perspective. The ability to see the other person’s point of view appears to be more automatic in same-sex couples, but research shows that heterosexuals who can relate to their partner’s concerns and who are skilled at defusing arguments also have stronger relationships.
One of the most common stereotypes in heterosexual marriages is the “demand-withdraw” interaction, in which the woman tends to be unhappy and to make demands for change, while the man reacts by withdrawing from the conflict. But some surprising new research shows that same-sex couples also exhibit the pattern, contradicting the notion that the behavior is rooted in gender, according to an abstract presented at the 2006 meeting of the Association for Psychological Science by Sarah R. Holley, a psychology researcher at Berkeley.
Dr. Levenson says this is good news for all couples.
“Like everybody else, I thought this was male behavior and female behavior, but it’s not,” he said. “That means there is a lot more hope that you can do something about it.”