The speaker of the Minnesota house of representatives, Steve Sviggum, softened his stance on benefits for gay and lesbian state workers, agreeing to permit paid funeral and sick leave to care for a live-in partner. His change of heart doesn't entirely settle a dispute that has kept the legislature from ratifying state union contracts, but it clears a roadblock. Bills moving toward passage in both the house and the senate would ratify the pacts only after canceling health insurance for same-sex domestic partners as of June 30. Now the main issue remaining to be resolved is one of semantics. The senate bill, sponsored by majority leader John Hottinger, leaves intact references to domestic partners in the case of sick and bereavement leave. Sviggum's bill allows paid leave for absences because of the illness, disability, or death of "a regular member of the employee's immediate household."