Donnie McClurkin speaking at the 102nd COGIC Holy Convocation in Memphis, sharing how God delivered him from a lifestyle of homosexuality.
Amended Complaint Challenges Discriminatory Statutes Governing Police Benefits, Worker’s Compensation, End-of-Life Decisions and More
July 15, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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HELENA, Mont. — The ACLU and plaintiffs, seven loving, committed same-sex couples moved forward today with efforts to secure domestic partnership protections by filing an amended complaint in Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana, challenging individual Montana statutes covering financial protections for police officers, worker’s compensation benefits, end-of-life decisions, financial protections during illness and more.
In December 2012, the Montana Supreme Court denied the ACLU’s appeal challenging every state statute excluding committed same-sex couples from protections granted to opposite-sex, married couples, but the Justices said the ACLU could move forward with statute-specific efforts to secure equal treatment for same-sex couples in the state. The amended complaint does just that.
“We’re challenging statutes that offer some of the most egregious examples of how state laws do not give equal protection to same-sex couples and violate the Montana Constitution,” says ACLU of Montana Legal Director Jon Ellingson. “Two of our plaintiffs, Peggy Ash and Kelly Hurston of Belgrade, are prime examples of how statutory discrimination in Montana can cost same-sex couples financially and in terms of peace of mind.”
Peggy has served for 19 years as a Bozeman Police officer. She contributes the same amount of money to her retirement pension account as other officers. But should Peggy retire and die before Kelly, Kelly stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in pension benefits other officers’ spouses would be eligible to collect because she is not, and cannot be, Peggy’s spouse. If an officer dies before his or her spouse, that spouse can continue to receive the officer’s monthly pension benefit until death. Officers without spouses, like Peggy, may designate a beneficiary, but that beneficiary may only collect the amount the officer contributed to the retirement account. For a 20-year officer, with a $1,500 per month pension benefit, the amount the officer contributed would be exhausted in two years. This means that while the spouse of an officer who dies two years after retirement would receive $1,500 per month for the rest of his or her life, Kelly would receive nothing.
“Every other married officer that’s in this position and has worked for this time and paid into the system doesn’t have to worry about money evaporating if they retire and something happens to them,” says Peggy. “I go out and risk my health and my life every day. I’m not asking for anything special or different. I’m just asking for the same thing – to be able to take care of Kelly.”
Other plaintiffs in the case have similarly been hurt by statutes that treat committed same-sex couples differently than married couples. Mary Leslie of Bozeman lost her home in part because she was ineligible for worker's compensation death benefits when her former partner was killed in a workplace accident. Another plaintiff, Denise Boettcher of Laurel, was denied bereavement leave when her partner Kellie Gibson’s father died.
Plaintiffs in the case are Mary Anne Guggenheim and Jan Donaldson of Helena, Stacey Haugland and Mary Leslie of Bozeman, Mike Long and Rich Parker of Bozeman, MJ Williams and Nancy Owens of Basin, Rick Wagner and Gary Stallings of Butte, Denise Boettcher and Kellie Gibson of Laurel and Peggy Ash and Kelly Hurston of Belgrade.
In addition to Ellingson, the couples are represented by Elizabeth Gill, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project; Ben Alke and James Goetz of Goetz, Gallik & Baldwin P.C.; and Ruth Borenstein, Stuart Plunkett, Ariel Ruiz and Emily Regier of the law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP.
After a year-long review ordered by Congress, the Pentagon yesterday announced easing the ban on women serving in combat. Women service members will now be allowed to be permanently assigned to a battalion “as radio operators, medics, tank mechanics and other critical jobs.”
The news isn’t sitting well with GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Last night, CNN’s John King asked Santorum about the news and the former Pennsylvania senator said he’s worried that “emotions” might get in the way of the mission:
SANTORUM: I want to create every opportunity for women to be able to serve this country. And they do so in an amazing and wonderful way. And they’re a great addition to the — and have been for a long time, to the armed services of our country.
But I do have concerns about women in frontline combat. I think that can be a very compromising situation where — where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interests of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved. And I think that’s probably — you know, it already happens, of course, with the camaraderie of men in combat. But it’s — but it’s — I think it would be even more unique if women were in combat. And I think that’s probably not in the best interests of men, women or the mission.
The Pentagon announcement only formalizes military practices that were already taking place, and thus far “emotions,” as Santorum says, haven’t been an issue.
And Santorum also happens to think the same way about gays serving in the military, saying — despite evidence to the contrary — that it “would cause problems for people living in those close quarters.” And he’s been wrong about that prediction too.
A new survey of 1,300 LGBT Coloradans finds that the community faces substantial challenges in obtaining access to affordable and timely health care as compared to their heterosexual counterparts. For instance, LGBT respondents “were more likely to report factors that have been associated with poor health outcomes due to workplace and societal discrimination, family and social rejection, and minority stress” and had a harder time finding LGBT-friendly providers or revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity to their provides. “Transgender/gender non-conforming Coloradans endure even greater challenges to accessing, affording, and receiving quality mental and physical health care when compared to transgender people nationwide,” the report concluded.
Here are the results in five graphs.
Read the full report here.
Freedom to Marry held a press conference this morning to officially announce the launch of “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry,” a bipartisan group of more than 75 mayors “who pledge to support marriage for gay and lesbian couples.” Participants include Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles; Mayor Jerry Sanders of San Diegol Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston; Mayor Annise Parker of Houston; and Mayor Marilyn Strickland of Tacoma. Below is the full list:
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt of Chapel Hill, NC discussed his involvement in the group with Thomas Roberts on MSBC this morning:
New York state Sen. Steve Saland (R) crafted the religious protections that helped the state’s marriage equality law pass last year and was one of four Republican senators to vote for it. Groups like the National Organization for Marriage have tried to counter their reelection, but Saland’s latest campaign finance disclosure report indicates that his vote hasn’t hurt him. He has raised over $425,000, from pro-equality donors like Robert Ziff and Proposition 8 attorney Ted Olson as well as conservative business interests like David Koch.
A group of Illinois state legislators have begun meeting with LGBT advocacy organizations to develop strategy to pass marriage equality in the state. Such legislation would not be introduced until 2013, but with the entire General Assembly up for reelection this year, it is a crucial time to encourage support for same-sex marriage. Civil unions became legal in Illinois on June 1 and over 3,700 same-sex couples obtained licenses in the first seven months they were available.