ABSTRACT: 1) Same-sex communities; political meaning of registered partnership. 2) Hawaiian court decision - path toward legal recognition of same-sex marriage; parties to the case, how it started and the subject matter; changes in contemporary American family life; reasons for marriage and life in matrimonial communities as justification of homosexuals' need to marry; decision of the Supreme Court of Hawaii. 3) Living with two mothers or two fathers: children of same-sex couples; problems with child upbringing in non-traditional and incomplete families; well-being of children or what the children need; what children surely don't need: discrimination. 4) Where do we go from here? - the Netherlands, Sweden; domestic partnership in USA; Iowa City; Ann Arbor; realised utopia: "Dad's Roommate" - children's picture book.

It is emphasised that the realisation of the entire range of civil rights for all the citizens and the elimination of all types of discrimination are a political necessity for establishing democracy. Legal recognition of female communities has an even deeper political significance, bearing upon the general problem of social and legal discrimination against women, which makes it an inevitable part of the feminist agenda.  In the text, previous experiences of realisation of legally recognised same-sex communities are analysed. Registered partnership, the so-called "Nordic" or "European" type of communities of same-sex couples, is compared with "domestic partnership" and same-sex marriage, which is the American legal solution.

Key words: registered partnership, same-sex marriage, Nordic (European) type, Hawaiian court decision, American type of domestic partnership, children in same-sex communities.


The new millennium will begin in different parts of the world with legal changes that more and more completely define the civil status of homosexual persons. Up to now, no state has given lesbians and gays the same rights concerning marriage that heterosexual couples have. However, five Nordic countries allow same-sex couples to establish a legally regulated community which is called registered partnership: those countries are Sweden (1995), Norway and the Netherlands (1993), Denmark (1989) and Iceland (1996); Finland will probably join them soon. Denmark, Norway and Sweden have regulated registered partnership identically, granting such partners rights and duties equivalent to those of persons in a heterosexual marriage, with the exception of the right to adoption, a church marriage[1] and free hospital services pertaining to artificial insemination.[2] The Registered Partnership Act in Iceland allows one of the partners to adopt a biological child of his/her partner. In all the above-mentioned countries at least one prospective registered-partnership member must be a citizen or a permanent resident of the country in question. Foreigners cannot register partnership in any of the above-mentioned countries.

In any case, the idea of registered partnership has been realised in the Nordic countries within the framework of legal changes stretching over two decades which, to an increasing degree, connect many social benefits to living together (cohabitation) rather than to a formally contracted marriage. During the seventies, homosexual couples were essentially made equal in practice to unmarried heterosexual couples without children when it came to their mutual rights (for example, health care insurance, inheritance, common property, tax exemption). It was only logical to recognise the right which is granted to unmarried homosexual couples, who have at their disposal the option of marrying legally, to homosexual couples, all the more so in view of the fact that they do not have that option. A natural step further was to legalise the registration of these communities for the purpose of facilitating record-keeping and the administration of their rights. The original idea, therefore, was not to legalise some "second-class" marriage, nor was any homosexual "marriage" even thought about.[3] But once the notion of registered partnership was gradually developed, it was perceived that it was actually very "similar" to marriage, differing from it only when it came to the recognition of parental rights, as mentioned above.[4]

Some countries in transition are joining the Nordic "club". In 1996, the Hungarian Parliament voted (207 votes for and 73 against) to legalise the so-called "marriage" of homosexuals as common law marriage. It was quite unexpected because no social campaign of homosexuals' associations had preceded the passing of that law. Hungarian law gives registered partners who live in a "common law marriage" all the rights that parties in a legal marriage have, except for the right to adopt children. Since 1996, there have been some indications that the Czech Republic and Slovenia[5] will also legalise registered partnership of same-sex couples.

In Denmark, where registered partnership has existed the longest in practice, the following data [6] are available: by January 1996, 2.083 same-sex couples were registered, 17% (357) of which were divorced later and 219 relationships ended because one partner died. Registered partnership is obviously a more attractive institution to male than to female couples: 1.449 of the above couples are male and 634 are female. Lesbian couples in Denmark are not only less frequent but less stable as well: 23% of these couples were divorced later, as opposed to a 14% rate of "divorce" among male couples.

Registered partnership of Scandinavian (or European) type differs from different-sex matrimonial communities in one major characteristic only – the right to children.[7] This has to do with the right of same-sex couples to realize parentage, that is to say, to get children by means of artificial insemination,[8] adoption, or by being awarded custody of their own children or their partner's children. It is very important that this right should become legally recognised because it affords them protection from closest relatives (mostly homosexuals' parents, grandmothers and grandfathers of their children), heterosexual ex-partners and the state itself, in other words, from all those who take their children away [9] from them proclaiming them "unsuitable" (homosexuality is almost automatically considered sufficient grounds for unsuitability by many courts).

The next difference between registered partnership and marriage, mostly pertaining to the broad and exceptionally important sphere of civil, property and tax status of same-sex or different-sex couples, is international recognition of marriage, irrespective of where it has contracted. Marriage, therefore, is valid everywhere regardless of the spouses’ citizenship or the place where it has been contracted, in spite of all the differences in the legal regulations of various states pertaining to the conditions and the procedure for contracting a marriage. Registered partnership, however, is valid only in those states whose laws allow it, on their territory only, and has no legal effect beyond its frontiers. Moreover, it is available only to the citizens of those states, so that at least one member of a same-sex couple must have domestic citizenship.

Political significance of registered partnership

There arises the question of the relevance of this legal institute in our circumstances; the feminists' attitude towards it is also an open question. In other words, the question is whether registered partnership should be part of the feminist agenda, and if so, why and what arguments would support that? It is true that the majority of women do not really "need" it, that most women have other problems. To each and every one of us, our present problems seem the hardest and the most serious ones there are; consequently, the needs for legal regulation of registered partnership that some lesbians (not even all lesbians or the majority of them) and gays might have, appear to be something of a luxury.

Of the legal changes that women in our country might wish for, registered partnership seems to be the remotest one, the one most difficult to achieve, in a nutshell - the most impossible option. But we must ask for and persistently demand that which is hardest to achieve. The feminist attitude toward registered partnership - regardless of personal sexual orientation - is that the moral significance of legal recognition of registered partnership as the right of women to love other women and live with other women is much greater than the mere legal possibility for a few lesbian couples to make their relationship formal. Abortion, domestic violence, harassment at the workplace and at school, women's poverty and unemployment, the right to form women's organisations and pursue their public and political activities, including the right to dissent from the official policy of the ruling party, all of these take on an entirely new dimension, and those demanding legal changes along those lines possess greater power against the background of legally allowed registered partnership. Making registered partnership of two women legal means legal recognition of women's right to autonomy, independence, free existence, the right of choice, emancipation from the tacitly accepted obligation of living with a man and financial autonomy, in a nutshell, much of what we do not have or do not have enough of, and what is necessary to us.

Registered partnership is legal recognition of "otherness", it means a legal right to be different, the right to "otherness" not only tolerated but also actively protected by law. It carries with it the right to guaranteed civil rights recognised to minority members, who are marginal in terms of numbers or social influence. Registered partnership is much more than mere legal regulation of property relations and the civil status of persons to whom it directly applies, because it is a sign of the democratic character of a society, its openness and spirit of tolerance. It is also a sign of welfare in a society, and not moral welfare only: it is not mere coincidence that the states which have or are about to pass laws providing legal regulations for the community of same-sex couples are all among the states with the highest standard of living in material terms.

The set of human rights standards in the European Community also contains the Resolution about Equal Rights for Gays and Lesbians, passed by the European Parliament in 1994.[10] In Article 14, among other things, it is recommended to the member states, as a minimum, to strive to abolish legal bans on gay and lesbian marriages and to enable them to use other equivalent legal institutes that bring the entire range of marital rights and privileges with them, as well as to allow the registration of partnership of same-sex couples. In the same Article, it is also recommended to abolish any limitations of the right of lesbians and gays to be parents, adopt children or get custody of them.

The full range of civil rights also presupposes the elimination of discrimination against gays and lesbians, as well as all the other "others". In its official political platform, "Europride 97" expressed the wish of lesbians and gays in Europe to stop being second-class citizens: "Europe is not only the commercial, financial and military Europe: Europe is inhabited by women and men who want to share the same rights and duties. We want a true citizens’ Europe. We want true European citizenship." Part of the demand for full civil rights is the request addressed to all European countries to legally recognise same-sex couple communities, including the granting of parental rights to all homosexual and bisexual people (the right to adoption, custody and artificial insemination).[11]


In Hawaii, in 1990, three homosexual couples started an uncertain campaign to be granted all the privileges and the legal status resulting from marriage. The Hawaiians opted for the maximum demand - all civil and property status rights, plus the right to parentage and general validity of these rights. In the USA, the Hawaiian court decision represents a "test" decision[12] when it comes to awarding custody of children and visitation rights following a divorce to homosexuals divorced from heterosexual former spouses.

The parties to the case, how it started and the subject matter

On December 3rd 1996, the First District Court in Honolulu, in Hawaii, reached a verdict in the case Baehr VS. Miike. The plaintiffs in the case were three same-sex couples,[13] and the defendant was the director of the Hawaiian Ministry of Health.[14] On December 17th 1990 the plaintiffs applied to the Hawaiian Ministry of Health, which is authorised to give marriage licenses, requesting to be granted a marriage license. They were refused on the grounds that they were same-sex couples (two female and one male couple), the additional justification being that marriage between same-sex persons was contrary to the vital public interests which the state of Hawaii, represented by this Ministry, had to protect. The following public interests were listed: 1) it is the obligation and interest of the state to protect the health and well-being of children and other persons; 2) it is in public interest to support the conception and bearing of children within the framework of traditional marriage; 3) the public interest of the state of Hawaii is to ensure recognition of Hawaiian marriages in other states; 4) the public interest of the state is to protect public finances from potential unforeseeable consequences of recognising same-sex marriages; 5) the public interest of the state is to protect the civil rights and liberties of its citizens from the reasonably foreseeable consequences of recognising same-sex marriages, the most often mentioned of which were the possibility of an increase of prostitution, polygamy, incest and pornography.

There followed a complex legal process lasting several years, comprising various legal procedures, some 15 different appeals, rejections, annulments, etc. The most important thing of all is that, on July 15th 1996, the Supreme Court of Hawaii declared the case adjourned, pending decisions in other parallel cases, initiated because of various forms of discrimination against homosexuals. However, the case was reopened when it became clear that all those subsidiary court cases being simultaneously conducted in Hawaii actually depended on the decision in this case, which was thus designated a "test" case even before the verdict was reached.

Changes in contemporary American family life

Parental rights are obviously the most controversial issue when it comes to legal regulation of homosexual communities. It is usually claimed, as a counter-argument to allowing homosexuals to marry or to register similar legally regulated communities, that they cannot have children with their homosexual partners (according to many, children are the only or at least the main purpose of marriage). This line of argument implies the belief that they, even when they are biological parents, irrespective of how the conception occurred, ought not to have custody of their own children because, due to their sexual orientation, they cannot be adequate parents and it is unsuitable for the children to be brought up in such "abnormal" circumstances. Consequently, the facts presented before the Hawaiian court were relevant to the situation in American family life. Although the data refer to another country, they represent an illustration of general and universal arguments, applicable everywhere where there is a debate over laws regulating the life of homosexual couple communities.

Thus it was pointed out that, over the last 20 years, the marriage rate among American citizens had significantly decreased; in the last 20 years, the average age when women get married had significantly increased; in the last 30 years, the annual divorce rate had increased; in the last 8 years, the number of young adults who live together out of wedlock had increased; in the last 20 years, the birth rate had decreased; in the last 20 years, the number of children born out of wedlock had increased proportionately among women of all races in the USA; in the last 30 years, the percentage of employed mothers of children below the age of 6 had dramatically increased.

As a result of all this, today's children live under conditions considerably different from those that prevailed in the past. The most frequent phenomenon is that of the single-parent family; consequently, more and more children live in a family with only one parent or with a mother who has never married. Children also frequently live in new families, formed after one of their parents has remarried, and more and more frequently with both their natural parents who have never formally married. Out of ten American children, six still live in families made up of their natural married parents, while four live in other combinations, including families made up of unmarried natural parents and families that include other relatives, most often grandparents, aunts, uncles etc., but persons who are not blood relations. In Hawaii, children are brought up by their natural parents, stepmothers and stepfathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, adoptive parents, and the so-called "hanai" parents (in foster-care communities), but also by gay and lesbian parents. In addition to this, there are many families without children.

On the other hand, it is a frequent phenomenon that persons marry not wishing to have children or marry even though they are biologically incapable of having children. Biological incapability or the absence of a wish to have children does not at all diminish the legitimacy of their wish to get married. No mature person can be prevented from marrying just because he/she cannot or does not want to have children.

Based on various expert findings and research results, the following was proved in court:

  1. the sexual orientation of parents does not represent a factor that disqualifies such people a priori from being good, successful, responsible and adequate parents, full of parental warmth and love;
  2. gay and lesbian parents, as well as same-sex couples, have all the necessary prerequisites for bringing up children who are content, healthy and well-adapted;
  3. gays and lesbians, as well as same-sex couples, should be granted permission to adopt children, get custody of them, care for them and bring them up as healthy children, because it has been proved that they are capable of providing them with necessary care; they are as much capable of being suitable parents as different-sex couples are.[15]

It has not been proved that any significant differences in children's upbringing will occur as a result of their having been brought up by same-sex parents rather than different-sex parents.

Reasons why people marry and live in matrimonial communities as a justification of homosexuals' need to marry

People marry for the sake of giving birth to and bringing up children, but also for the sake of stability and dedication to mutual emotional closeness, intimacy and monogamy, and for the sake of establishing a framework for a long-term relationship, for personal affirmation, recognition in society, some legal and economic protection, benefits and mutual rights and duties. In our culture, there is striving for intimacy and security resulting from living together in a stable community; therefore, it is also mentioned that people marry for the simple reason of wishing to live in a community; they want love and trust, they want to share all life’s joys and hardships with someone, to live together and love each other. It is, therefore, a normal phenomenon that people marry for all of the above reasons and not only because of wishing to have children. In Hawaii and elsewhere, homosexuals want to be granted the right to marry for these same reasons.

Compared to married couples, three categories of communities are characterised by high instability, that is, by short-lived relationships, and those are gay relationships, lesbian relationships and non-matrimonial heterosexual relationships. Research results also indicate that communities of same-sex couples are rather more unstable and short-lived than different-sex marriages. One should bear in mind, however, that married couples have at their disposal various privileges, social recognition and other advantages that keep them together longer, which is not the case with other types of couples. Homosexual couples do not have a legal option of realising all those advantages and social benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples, which certainly contributes to increased instability to a greater extent than the character of the relationship itself does. Since the eighties, changes in society have been observed – especially the advent of AIDS – contributing to increased monogamy and the attraction of living in a stable relationship. The results of recently conducted surveys clearly show that homosexual persons of both sexes, as well as heterosexual persons of both sexes equally want to get married and that there is no difference in the scope of that wish. Research results also show that same-sex couples have and can achieve successful mutually dedicated relationships full of love and respect.

Decision of the Supreme Court of Hawaii

Marriage is a legal status regulated by the state, which confers certain rights and benefits upon the spouses. The Hawaiian Ministry of Health has an exclusive right to give licenses to those wishing to marry. The Court ascertained that it was not in public interest to limit legal marriage to different-sex persons, for this constituted groundless discrimination against same-sex persons wishing to marry and against their children, who must have all the rights originating from the marital status of their parents.

The defence did not provide sufficient evidence to prove that the state finances would be endangered in any way. Also, the defence did not provide sufficient evidence to prove that the legal significance of the  institution of traditional heterosexual marriage was such that there would exist a need to preserve this form of legally recognised marriage only, at the price of discriminating against many adult individuals on account of their sexual orientation, and against their children as well. It was established beyond any doubt, however, that it was in public interest to protect the well-being of children and the family, and also that enabling same-sex persons to marry would contribute to reaching those very goals.

The argument that the legalisation of same-sex marriage will lead to the legalisation (expansion) of prostitution, polygamy and incest is quite simply extremely prejudicial; there was no attempt on the part of the defence to substantiate this claim in court.

Also, the defence did not prove that licensing same-sex marriages would endanger either the international recognition of traditional marriages contracted in Hawaii or any other important public or state interest.

The final court decision was that the current legal regulations, allowing only persons of different sexes to contract marriages, constituted an unconstitutional violation of the right of all people to equal legal protection and legal status, and that the same right should be granted to same-sex persons as well.


Problems of bringing children up in non-traditional and incomplete families

Research has proved that single parents, parents of adopted children, lesbian mothers, gay fathers and same-sex couples can create a family atmosphere and raise healthy and well-adapted children. However, research has pointed out that children in single-parent families are more exposed to poverty and economic difficulties of all kinds,[16] that these children are more likely to be underachievers at school and exhibit behaviour problems, and that teenage pregnancy out of wedlock tends to occur more frequently. Children born through artificial insemination grow up and develop normally; the sexual orientation of their parents is not a factor influencing the well-being of children or their adaptability later on in life. Regardless of their parents' sexual orientation, children who grow up in a harmonious family environment exhibit acceptable behaviour. The biological connection between parents and children is not of essential significance for those children's health. The quality of parenting is a much more important factor than mere biological connection.

A community of same-sex parents is most similar to a community consisting of one biological parent of the child in question, the other partner being the child’s stepfather/stepmother or aunt or uncle. These family communities have proved to be stable and totally adequate for a child's development in practice. Therefore, they should be allowed in the case of same-sex partners too, because they offer children a more complete family than a single-parent family.

Of course, research has also proved that children growing up with same-sex parents go through "a period of difficulties" in their development, when they cannot accept the fact that their family is different from the majority of other families around them. There is a lot of pain there, but that is all part of the process of growing up, something that children growing up in traditional families go through as well (a period when children oppose their parents). Children brought up by a homosexual couple experience otherness more strongly, thus learning to value diversity, which is something that everyone gradually through life in any case. Same-sex couples enrich the traditional gender roles and relations, providing a model called "child's gender flexibility". Sexual orientation per se is by no means evidence of the alleged incapability of being a parent. Lesbians and gays, as individuals and as couples, are as capable of being loving parents and fitting for that role as heterosexual people. Caring for the interests and development of children is no reason to deprive same-sex couples of the license to marry.

Children's well-being or what children need

Sexual orientation per se does not disqualify anybody from being a successful parent, full of love for his/her children. But the relationship between parents is an important model for learning. It is important for children to have parents of different sexes as role-models, because there is a problem that tends to arise here which is best described as "too much information about one sex and none about the other". Although it is a real problem, it is surely minor compared to domestic violence or permanent family problems of a different kind (alcoholism, drug addiction, criminal behaviour of one or both parents, etc.).

What children need in order to develop into happy, healthy and well-adapted human beings is, first of all, living in a family without stress. Research has proved that what is of greatest importance for children is growing up in an atmosphere where quarrelling is kept to a minimum, parents provide maximum support and very there exists a very strong and close relationship between children and parents. Homosexual parents are capable of providing a warm atmosphere permeated with love. Therefore, what guarantees the stability of the family structure is not the mere biological connection between parents and children, but a caring relationship between parents and children. Children who are born to same-sex couples, conceived through artificial insemination or adopted by them are not exposed to increased risk of behavioural and psychological problems. Research has clearly shown that there is no evidence to prove that only one type of parenting is so predominantly perfect as to exclude all other types of non-biological parenting such as adoption, stepfather/stepmother parenting, custody and lesbian and gay parenting.

According to the results of three studies conducted in the USA, Great Britain and the Netherlands,[17] children born to lesbian couples, regardless of whether they were conceived "naturally" or through artificial insemination, are healthy and well-adapted. Standard psychological tests do not indicate any differences between the children of heterosexual and those of lesbian couples, and also no difference can be observed between children conceived "naturally" and those conceived through artificial insemination.

Interest in children of lesbian couples has increased recently, since it was observed that more and more lesbian couples decided to have children. Charlotte Patterson, a researcher at University of Virginia, states in the above-mentioned research that, over the last few years, we have had a veritable "lesbian baby boom", which has not been quantified yet, that is, has not been expressed by means of statistical indicators, but what is certain is that a general impression prevails of there being more and more children of lesbian couples. In the USA, one of the reasons for this is the increased accessibility of the services of artificial insemination clinics, which offer an increasingly reliable probability of conception by means of anonymous donors' sperm.

Raymond Chan of University of Virginia has made a comparative analysis of school teachers' reports on the behaviour of children of lesbian and gay couples on the one hand, and the behaviour of children of heterosexual couples on the other side in the three countries where the study was conducted and he observed no differences between those groups of children. Children of lesbian and gay couples, conceived either naturally or through artificial insemination, develop in accordance with the norms of the wider social community.

Fiona Tasker, a researcher at Brikbeck College (the Netherlands), has proved through her research that a lesbian mother who is not a biological parent is much more preoccupied with a child than the father in a heterosexual couple. Moreover, a female biological non-parent most often has the main parental role in the upbringing of a common child. According to the results of her research, 90% of lesbian partners, non-biological parents, think that a common child’s upbringing is a common task, demanding their full and active participation, while 37% of heterosexual fathers think the same. 60% of lesbian partners, biological non-parents, actively participate when it comes to disciplining children, in contrast to 20% of fathers in heterosexual couples.

What children don't need: discrimination

Children from different-sex marriages have assistance from more family members as well as various legal benefits; those benefits are health care insurance, tax exemptions for parents, welfare benefits for parents, child allowance, alimony or other guarantees for supporting children, inheritance rights pertaining to their parents and to members of their families, etc. All children should have equal social opportunities to realise their potential to the maximum. That is why children of homosexual parents must not be denied benefits such as health care insurance, education and a standard of living based on the material and social status of both parents. The status of different-sex parents, same-sex parents, individual parents or adoptive parents cannot be the reason for any discrimination against children, nor can children be denied their equal rights. Quite simply, children must not be denied the benefits and protection enjoyed by other children because of the sexual orientation of their parents.


The Netherlands, Sweden

In the Dutch Parliament, changes in family legislation that give various mutual rights to registered partners, thus bringing their status increasingly closer to marital legal status, have gained strong support. In practical terms, after this Act is passed, which is expected to occur in the course of 1998, only one thing will remain inaccessible to registered partners – the possibility of adopting children. In short, those legal changes grant homosexuals who live in a registered partnership the right to their partner's pension, his/her health care insurance, full personal and family mutual inheritance rights, the right to alimony in case of break up. Admission of homosexuals to the army and the police has been legally regulated before, all of which contributes to making the civil status of homosexually oriented people completed.

Pia and Monika are the names of two policewomen in Stockholm who live in a registered partnership. Last winter, Monika gave birth to a daughter conceived through artificial insemination. Towards the end of November 1996, they managed to transfer maternity leave to her partner Pia, which is an option legally available in Sweden when heterosexual couples are in question. The Swedish National Insurance Company recognised that Pia and Monika had rights equal to those of parents in an ordinary marriage. Although a sizeable portion of their one-year maternity leave has already elapsed, the important thing is that the practice of recognising equal rights and benefits to homosexual and heterosexual couples is becoming increasingly widespread.

Domestic partnership in the USA

Registered partnership exists in the USA, under the name of domestic partnership, in several cities known for their tolerant attitude towards homosexuals, such as New York, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Iowa City, Ann Arbor, and in several counties (but not entire federal states), such as Thomkins and Uthica (New York State) and East Lenssing in Michigan.

The significance of American registered partnership is almost symbolic, and it mostly serves as a public announcement of joint dedication to a monogamous, lasting relationship. It may serve as a basis for various benefits, but that is solely dependent upon the employer. In order to regulate matters pertaining to joint property, registered (as well as unregistered) partners are advised to conclude parallel private civil contracts (for example, a "joint survivalship contract") about the acquisition and exploitation of property as well as the division of property in case of breaking up. In a strictly legal sense, domestic partnership in the USA is not "almost the same as marriage, only without parental rights", and it is territorially limited, too. However, the practical as well as political and moral significance of this institute is huge, because it is applied in towns inhabited by tens of millions of inhabitants and also in prominent university centres, the leading university-level educational institutions in America. The existence of domestic partnership in those environments represents a precious experience, serving as the argumentative basis of the request for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the USA.

Iowa City

Family relationships other than traditional marriage and blood relations are recognised. Registered partnership became part of the Iowa City statutory regulation concerning human rights on November 16th 1994. Registered partnership is the recognition of a relationship of two unmarried adult persons. Domestic partnership is subject to public law regulations, which recognise the permanence of a relationship between persons who cannot or do not want to get married (it is not even mentioned that they are of same sex, so this can refer to persons of different sex also). It is subject to the condition that the persons wishing to register their partnership have decided on a life-time partnership, are not married, are not blood relations (that is, that their degree of kinship does not preclude the possibility of contracting marriage), are legally capable of concluding contracts, declare themselves to be in a relationship of mutual support, care and dedication, are responsible for each other and for their joint welfare, and will support each other. Both partners have to be permanent residents of Iowa City and be American nationals or permanent residents of the USA.[18] The biggest employers in Iowa City, the State University and Iowa City itself allow social benefits to registered partners, the most important one being mutual health care insurance.

Ann Arbor

In Ann Arbor, the centre of Michigan State University, there exists domestic partnership that is available to same-sex persons who are not married and are not related by blood to a degree that would prevent them from contracting a different-sex marriage. Another requirement is that at least 6 months have passed since the termination of the previous domestic partnership. Registered partners have a number of benefits, first of all mutual health and dental care insurance, and the option of renting apartments in a special quarter open to married couples at reduced prices, significantly lower than those in town.

The City Council of Ann Arbor passed the Ordonance on Domestic Partnership on November 4th 1991, justifying it by pointing out that it was in public interest to strengthen and support all forms of family life. It was also stressed that cultural diversity and equal treatment were in public interest as well, and that, by passing this Ordonance, they wanted to contribute to protecting the citizens from discrimination on the basis of marital status and sexual orientation.

There exist two types of registered domestic partnership, public and private, and the difference is that in the case of private domestic partnership, all the documents are entrusted to the partners. Also, persons who do not live in this town at all, even two foreigners who live and reside in other countries, can register their domestic partnership in Ann Arbor. This emphasises the missionary role of the support that this university town gives to all same-sex persons the world over who wish to legalise their relationship but cannot do it due to legal barriers in their own countries.

Realised utopia: Dad's Roommate – a children's picture book[19]

Dad's Roommate is a picture book for children up to the age of 10.[20]

The first picture: in the foreground is a boy aged 7-10; he is telling us how, a year ago, his dad and his mom divorced and explained to him that this meant that dad would not be living with them any more but would see him often and that, of course dad, loved him and his younger  brother the most. The picture shows dad leaving, suitcase in hand, and mom holding her younger son, who is in tears, by the hand. Both dad and mom look resolute, tight-lipped, their gaze implacable, while the boy stands between them, confused, question marks popping up all around him.

The second picture: dad is now living in an apartment in another part of the town; for a couple of months, he has had a roommate – John. The boy likes him: dad's roommate takes him out to collect various insects, butterflies and bugs, and later explains their names and what species they belong to, telling him interesting stories from biology and showing him curiosities in various thick books. All three of them, the boy who is telling us this, his dad and dad's roommate, go fishing together, going to sports matches, even play football. In the evening, they watch TV or video tapes for children, the boy sits in dad's lap for a while, then in the lap of dad’s roommate, of whom he says that his hands are almost as gentle as mom's.

The third picture: dad and his roommate cook together, wash the dishes together afterwards, with the boy helping them. Of course, dad and his roommate sleep in the same bed (the picture shows two males in striped pajamas, one reading a book and the other yawning and stretching beside him) and in the morning they shave together. Sometimes dad and his roommate quarrel but soon they make up (the picture shows two males, red in the face, screaming at each other and afterwards they pat each other on the shoulder and blow their noses – obviously tears have been shed, too; finally they have a drink as a sign of reconciliation).

The fourth picture: at school, some boys with evil looks and sharp teeth have told him that his dad is a "queer" and that he is probably one as well; the boy does not know the meaning of  the word but understands that it is something very ugly and denies it bitterly, so that a fight ensues. The schoolteacher breaks it up but explains nothing. The boy decides not to ask his dad, fearing that it is something really bad, which could be true, but to ask his mom instead.

The fifth picture: mom says that his dad really is gay but, first of all, it does not mean that he is gay as well because it is not hereditary and, second, it is not anything bad. That merely means that his dad loves men, therefore, that is only one type of love, and since love is never bad, being gay is nothing bad. When asked what types of love there are, mom answers him and his younger brother: "You will tell me, and I will write it down". In the end, on the table is a long list and mom is seen hugging her boys.

And everyone is happy and content, the way things should be like in fairy tales.

Zorica Mršević
Institute for Criminological and Sociological Research, Belgrade
April 1997

Zorica Mršević

The text emphasises that realising the entire scope of civil rights for all citizens and abolishing all kinds of discrimination is a political necessity in the process of developing a democratic order. Legal recognition of female couples has an even deeper political significance, being reflected on the more general issue of social and legal discrimination of women, and therefore becomes a necessary part of the feminist agenda. The article analyses the experiences in dealing with legally recognised same-sex couples up to now. The so-called "Nordic", better to say, "European" type of registered partnership is compared with the American legal institutions of "domestic partnership" and same-sex marriage. What is common to both is an obvious improvement when it comes to the legal rights of lesbian/gay partners, which indicates a trend towards treating these communities and traditional marriage equally.

Key words: registered partnership, same-sex marriage, "Nordic" (European) type, Hawaiian court decision, American type of domestic partnership, children in same-sex communities.

[1] Priests in those countries think that it should be a matter of conscience and personal decision of each of them individually. Many priests agree to perform church a ceremony of "marriage" for same-sex couples, in spite of the fact that the church organization doesn't recognize the validity of such a ceremony.

[2] This refers only to the services covered by regular health care insurance, which are paid from the budget; private clinics and their services, paid by patients, are not forbidden. This constitutes discrimination against lesbians because they should pay considerable amounts of money for something that heterosexual women are allowed to have for free.

[3] Big employers and transnational companies such as the World Bank, the European Monetary Institute, IBM, as well as political bodies such as the European Parliament and the European Commission follow the same path, granting unmarried partners the same benefits that are enjoyed by the spouses of their married employees. The most important of these is health care insurance, but there are several other benefits such as free language courses, the use of member-reserved cafés and restaurants, etc. In view of the fact that no difference is made between heterosexual and homosexual unmarried couples, the scope of recognized benefits is identical. From: Fwd from euroqueer This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at Internet 1/29/97 9:32 AM Subject: ES: Press release from EGALITE, Brussels.

[4] From: Eva Isaksson This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  on the Internet 10/30/96 6:02 PM Subject: Comments wanted: 2.7.2 Domestic partnership (Same-sex "marriages")

[5] Date: 12/31/96 9:24 AM Subject: ES:ILGA Press Release

[6] Rex Wockner: Same-sex marriage, Nordic-style, Advocate, February 1997, str. 26.

[7] From: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. on the Internet 12/7/96 2:08 PM Subject: Let's go to Hawaii.

[8] The term artificial insemination has a wide-spread use although there have been objections to the use of the adjective "artificial". Children who are conceived and born this way are not less "natural" or more "artificial" than other children. (From:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. on the Internet 4/6/97 12:58 PM) In this paper, I shall use the term artificial insemination, because for the time being there does not exist a more suitable one, but remain fully aware of its shortcomings. Potential alternatives for that term such as "alternative insemination" or "assisted reproduction" have not gained wider acceptance yet. From: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. on the Internet 4/7/97 9:42 AM Subject: Re: WILD: studies about children raised by lesbian parents.

[9] In 1995, Mary Frank Ward, a mother of three children, sued her ex-husband, the father of her youngest child, demanding that the amount he paid for child sustenance be increased. Her ex-husband (convicted of the murder of his first wife) retaliated by bringing counter-charges against his ex-wife, demanding that he be awarded custody of their child; the case was decided in his favour, and  the Supreme Court of Florida confirmed the decision. The verdict was justified by the fact that "the behaviour the child was exposed to in her mother's house had a detrimental effect on her". The court considered that there were "harmful influences" because Mary and her eldest daughter are lesbians, both living in the same household with their partners and Mary’s two younger children. Florida, by the way, has recently passed a law stating that custody of a child should be denied to persons convicted of grave criminal offences, especially when acts of domestic violence are in question, except when suitability to take care of children is proved by particularly strong evidence. Mary Frank Ward's ex-husband provided evidence that he was now married, permanently employed and owned considerable assets. The court considered the above particularly strong evidence and sufficient grounds for taking custody away from the lesbian mother and awarding it to him, the murderer of his first wife. Being employed, married and having property, therefore, constitutes particularly strong and good evidence that someone, even though a murderer, can be a better parent than a lesbian mother. A convicted murderer is a more fitting partner than a lesbian, Ms. January, Vol. VII, no. 4. p. 27. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  on the Internet 2/28/97 3:29 PM Subject: PATRIARCHY STRIKES BACK)

[10] AE-0028/94

[11] EUROPRIDE 97 POLITICAL STATEMENT "Gays and lesbians: towards a true European citizenship".

[12] In the precedent legal systems future similar cases are based on law but also on "test" decisions.

[13] Ninia Baehr & Genora Dancel; Tammy Rodriguea & Antoinett Pregil; Pat Langon & Joseph Melillo

[14] Lawrence Miike

[15]Same-sex Marriage – A Fair Ruling, Ms. March, vol. VII, no. 5. p. 17.

[16] Julia Penelope (edit): Out of the Class Closet, Dykes of Poverty: Coming Home, The Crossing Press & Freedom, Los Angeles 1994, p. 161-171.

[17] Paul Recer: "Lesbian's Kids Emotionally Sound", April 4 1997, The Associated Press, From: Fwd from euroqueer at internet 4/4/97 10:02 PM. Research was coordinated by: Fiona Tasker, Birkbeck College, the Netherlands and Charlotte J. Patterson & Raymond W. Chan, University of Virginia, USA.

[18] The procedure for registering is simple: at the administrative office, both persons sign the form and pay 30 dollars; three working days later, they receive a declaration stating that registered partnership between them has come into force. The same procedure applies for divorce.

[19] From: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. on the Internet 11/25/96 1:52 PM Subject: Dad's Roommate.
[20] Will Hoite: Daddy's Roommate, Alyson Publishers, New York 1995.