8 JUNE 20,2003
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N.M. ruling may allow gays to sue for loss of companionship
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — In a decision that may
pave the way for same-sex partner claims, the New
Mexico Supreme Court ruled that people in long-
term relationships — married or not — can sue over
loss of companionship when the loved one is injured.
Lawyers say the gender-neutral ruling handed down
in Santa Fe this spring left open the question of
whether same-sex couples would have the same
rights as other unmarried couples in such "consortium" cases. "We hold as a matter of first impression
under New Mexico law that a claim for loss of consortium is not limited to married partners," Justice
Pamela Minzner wrote in the April 25 decision.
There was no dissent. The ruling, which imposed no
preconceptions about gender on future cases, said
only that the relationship must be "committed and
exclusive," with no other intimate or spouse clouding
the case. "I think this decision certainly sets the
groundwork for same-sex couples to file claims for
consortium," said Nicole Schamban, president of the
New Mexico Defense Lawyers Association.
Justice Pamela Minzner authored a
recent New Mexico Supreme Court
ruling that attorneys say may allow
gay couples to sue for loss of companionship if a partner is injured.
(Photo courtesy of the Supreme
Court of New Mexico)
Calif, lesbian seeks
alimony in 'divorce'
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Michelle Piatt's
lawsuit against her former partner of eight
years, gay civil rights activist Marsha
Naify seeks ongoing monetary support
similar to alimony and could be precedent
setting, according to Piatt's attorney,
Jeffrey Erdman. Piatt wants between
310,000 and $20,000 per month, reported
Frontiers, a gay newsmagazine. "We are
confident that Marsha will prevail in every
respect," Naify's attorney said in a written
statement. Piatt argues in court documents
that she deserves the ongoing payments
because she gave "more time and energy to
the business/investment interests and
affairs of Naify, at Naiiy's insistence and
request, and [she] eventually discontinued
working independently of her work on
behalf of Ms. Naify" The lawsuit is pending before the Los Angeles County Superior
Court in Long Beach.
New Mass. judicial
rules ban anti-gay bias
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts' highest
court updated its ethical code of conduct
forjudges for the first time in 30 years. The
Supreme Judicial Court released the new
52-page code of ethics on June 13, and the
new version, which takes effect Oct. 1. It
includes new rules and accompanying
commentary to help judges interpret the
rules. The code's language was also updated to remove male-only references to
judges and add domestic partners to language referring to a judge's spouse. For the
first time, the SJC also banned judges from
joining groups that practice "invidious
discrimination" on the basis of sexual orientation or ethnicity, other than churches,
the military, and any "intimate, purely private organization." The earlier rules had
only specified non-discrimination based
on race, sex, religion, or national origin.
La. Senate bans public
sex, keeps sodomy law
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The
Louisiana Senate went on record June
16 against sex in public, following the
lead of the state House, which passed
the bill a month ago. An explicit videotape shot during the French Quarter's
Southern Decadence festival, an annual
gay celebration, inspired the legislation.
The video has been much circulated by a
New Orleans minister who wants his
city to clamp down on the festival.
Public sex is already illegal, but the new
bill outlaws sex for the "purpose of
drawing a crowd" and includes harsher
penalties than those in the existing law,
of up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.
The unanimous decision came less than
a week after the state Senate defeated an
effort to repeal Louisiana's 197-year-old
anti-sodomy law by a 23-10 vote.
Kraft settles suit over
BIRMINGHAM. Ala. (AP) — The federal
government and the parent company of
Nabisco Inc. settled a lawsuit that claimed
a male supervisor at a Nabisco distribution center sexually harassed male
employees. U.S. District Judge Sharon
Lovelace Blackburn was asked last week
to approve the agreement between the
Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission and Kraft Foods Inc., which
owns Nabisco. The EEOC filed suit in
October contending route drivers and
warehouse workers at the Nabisco facility
were retaliated against when they complained about a gay supervisor. Charles E.
Guerrier, a lawyer for the EEOC, said the
agreement resulted from private settlements of "substantial amounts." Kraft
spokesperson Lynne Galia said the allegations occurred before Kraft bought
Nabisco. In a separate case, RSG Forest
Products settled a same-sex harassment
lawsuit by fhe EEOC late last month,
according to a consent decree filed in U.S.
District Court in Portland, Ore. RSG
agreed to pay $20,000 in compensatory and
punitive damages to the man who initially complained and $45,000 to each of four
other male workers. The company admitted no wrongdoing.
From stiff and wire reports