Monday, October 13, 2008

Prop. 8 vote could harm domestic partners

You might think, as I did, that a story with this headline, would be a scare story about how passing CA's Prop 8 would lead to the end of domestic partner benefits. But you would be mistaken. The story actually argues that defeating Prop 8 and enshrining same sex marriage permanently into law, could spell the end of domestic partner benefits. Or at least, serious complications for the future of dp benefits. How so, you may ask? Because the status of people who CAN marry, but choose not to, is unclear.
Experts on the issue suggest the state has three choices if Proposition 8 is defeated: Leave domestic partnerships alone, eliminate them or expand them to include all unmarried couples that want them.
“It's reasonable to say it will raise other sets of legal questions. . . . We will have to resolve them,” said Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, a lesbian who has joined the domestic partnership registry. ....
Some Massachusetts companies have dropped domestic partnership benefits, noting that same-sex couples can choose to marry. Other businesses have expanded domestic partnership programs to include opposite-sex couples.

“Many employees in Massachusetts have found that, since the legalization of marriage, employers often offer health care and other benefits only to married couples, meaning that a simple domestic partnership registration is no longer sufficient to obtain benefits for a partner,” said Steve Ralls, a spokesman for the national advocacy group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Actually, I have been wondering this for some time: once gays are allowed to marry, will the gay advocacy groups start encouraging gays to marry, and discouraging cohabitation, pre-marital sex, non-marital sex, etc? After all, they have been telling us that they want gay marriage in order to get the "conservative" benefits of marriage: ie. creating greater stability, reducing promiscuity and so on.

But I digress. The coalition around gay marriage may very well splinter on the issue of domestic partnerships in states that allow gay marriage.
Thomas Coleman, executive director of Unmarried America, which advocates for opposite-sex couples and single adults, said he doubts the Legislature would make changes to the domestic partnership program.
“Many liberals and moderates would probably be uncomfortable in replacing the law (and) telling gay couples to 'get married or you won't have any rights,' ” Coleman said....
“We would be glad to see domestic partnerships opened to all heterosexual couples, not just seniors,” said Shannon Minter, attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “However, it is difficult to imagine why any heterosexual couple other than seniors protecting federal benefits from a prior marriage would voluntarily choose a less protective, second-class status.”

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