Wednesday, August 03, 2005 | Frank Sabatini Jr. and his partner have been together for 18 years. However it wasn’t until last year that the two men officially registered as legal domestic partners at the San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Festival.
For him and other members of the local gay community, Monday’s state Supreme Court decision – that California businesses must provide equal treatment to same-sex domestic partners as they provide married couples – is a “step in the right direction.”
“It shows the rest of the country that same-sex partners are generally committed to seeking full benefits that married couples already enjoy,” he said.
Sabatini, who has worked for a little more than a decade as the media coordinator for the annual LGBT Pride event, observed at this past weekend’s festival that the lines for domestic partner registrations were much longer than the previous year.
“The fact that that number is growing shows that two people who are committed to each other are deserving of marriage rights and should have all of those rights in place as they continue in building their lives together,” said Sabatini. “These are people in serious, committed relationships. I personally don’t view (marriage) rights as frivolous, I take it very seriously.”
In his opinion, San Diego already boasts many progressive businesses that have embraced same-sex couples.
Still, Sabatini views Monday’s ruling as a positive development, one that he hopes will bring many more businesses to speed on the domestic partnership issue.
Julie Greenberg, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, said she believes that California will be a place that a lot of people around the country will be watching.
“It’s not like Massachusetts (the only state where gay marriage is legal), but each time a state takes a more open attitude towards providing same-sex couples the same rights, it’s moving in the right direction,” she said.
“We now have the opportunity to see how well each of these systems works and determine whether or not other states will follow the lead of states (that recognize civil unions and domestic partnerships) like California, Vermont and Hawaii,” said Greenberg.
Local business owner and community activist Bob Nelson first learned of the news via a dozen or so e-mails from several different politically active friends in the LGBT community. Nelson, who has been registered for three years with his partner, Murray Olson, had the following initial reaction: “I was grateful to be a Californian.”
Although Nelson feels that he and his partner have already been treated with respect and equality by the local businesses they have dealt with, the court’s decision, for him, confirms the legal basis of their relationship.
“I feel that the court has unambiguously validated the civil relationship that Murray and I enjoy. It’s both satisfying and sobering,” said Nelson. “It hands a very strong sword to those people who might otherwise lack the weapons they might need to protect their rights.”
Nelson said that the fact that a case like the one brought about by San Diegans B. Birgit Koebke and Kendall French ever had to arise is a statement about how much discrimination continues to exist here.
However, he acknowledges that “There are many businesses in San Diego that are enlightened and feel that my money is as good as the next guy or girl’s. That’s part of what makes San Diego a great place to live.”
“We hear a lot about intolerance; too often we don’t hear the stories about individuals and organizations that have a sincere respect for others,” said Nelson.
University Heights resident Nancy Grano hailed Monday’s decision as a “bright light for the future,” even though it only applies to California businesses.
Grano, who works for the U.S. Postal Service, will continue her ongoing campaign to receive equal rights and benefits for her partner of three years, Kathleen Shade, who is self-employed and has to buy her own insurance.
At least once a month for the past three years, Grano has phoned both her employer and union to inquire if they are providing domestic partner rights.
She tells them, “‘We’re registered domestic partners, I should have the same benefits as married couples’” and is repeatedly met with the same response: “‘We don’t have to do it, because we’re a federal agency. Until it’s federal legislation, we’re not going to do it.’ I contacted my union, and they’ll say ‘Yeah, it’s in the works,’ but I never hear anything about it,” said Grano.
In addition to her 12-year career with the Postal Service, Grano co-owns and helps run Shade’s stationary shop, Fifth Avenue Card Company, in Hillcrest.
“How do you walk away from a job after 12 years?” said Grano. “It’s an uneasy feeling in your stomach, knowing that your partner doesn’t have health insurance. God forbid she would get cancer or some serious disease.”
She remains optimistic. “I hope the next step is equal rights for everyone, for gay, lesbian and transgender communities to marry who they want and get equal rights and benefits. It’s a shame that in this day in age that there is so much prejudice … it’s 2005, when is the prejudice going to end?”
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