in a name

Should D.C. Kill Domestic Partnerships As It Upgrades to Marriage?


Here we were thinking that the whole wide world of gays wanted their marriage rights. But then some uppity D.C. gays, who are about to see full-blown marriage legislation come their way, have begun lobbying to keep domestic partnerships around. Huh?

No, that doesn’t mean they don’t want the ability for gays to marry. They just want to keep the option for DPs, which have been around since 1992. The Blade:

At least three prominent LGBT activists are planning to ask a D.C. City Council committee to remove from gay Council member David Catania’s same-sex marriage bill a provision that would end city recognition of new domestic partnerships after January 2011.

The local activists, who are strong supporters of same-sex marriage, believe the city’s domestic partnership law should remain in place at least until it becomes certain that Catania’s same-sex marriage bill will survive any attempts by members of Congress to block or overturn it.

Some activists additionally believe that domestic partnerships should continue as an option for same-sex couples even if same-sex marriage emerges as a permanent part of D.C. law.

“If there is a desire by the Council to phase out domestic partnerships, it should be debated on its own merits, and not lost in the issue of marriage,” said Bob Summersgill, former president of the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance and one of the lead LGBT strategists on behalf of both domestic partnerships and same-sex marriage.

It’s actually not just an issue of nomenclature, but substance. Because domestic partnerships are available to heterosexual couples, a man could be married to one woman and have a domestic partnership with another gal. Or guy! (Does this mean city employees can share benefits with two partners? We’re not sure.)

In D.C., DPs carry all the rights and privileges of marriage — health care, adoption, funeral arrangements — but without the name. And here’s one other interesting thing about them: blood relatives can be domestic partners. This means two siblings could have a DP, even if one of them is married.

Under Councilman David Catania’s bill, couples in DPs could choose to remain as they are, or convert to marriage — but no new DPs would be issued after Jan. 1, 2011.

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  • Grumpy Lawyer

    Some people, gay and straight, think that marriage is an oppressive even barbaric institution and would prefer an alternative.

    The DC domestic partnership form explicitly states that neither member of the partnership can be married or in a domestic partnership with any other person.|33120|33139|

    At any rate, call it marriage, call it domestic partnership, until DOMA is repealed if the state or territory’s statute is comprehensive there is no difference.

  • Leland Traiman

    Domestic Partners was invented by a gay couple, Tom Brougham & Barry Warren, in 1982 and advanced by lesbian and gay organizations to obtain the benefits of marriage when most lesbians and gay men viewed marriage as a discredited patriarchal institution.
    “Marriage equality” will only exist when we have all of the rights of marriage, both federal and state, regardless of how those rights are labeled, marriage or domestic partnerships. Marriage equality does not exist anywhere in the US and, given our activists’ obsession with the word rather than the rights, it will not happen for a long time to come.
    Doing away with domestic partnerships is anti-choice.

  • Lex

    Thank you for saying “Marriage equality does not exist anywhere in the US and, given our activists’ obsession with the word rather than the rights, it will not happen for a long time to come.” that has always irritated the hell out of me.

    Call it a Clusterfuck if you want, just give us equal rights. I’ll call it what I want at after I sign the dotted line.

  • naprem

    DP means somthing very different to me.

  • Leland Traiman

    Dear Naprem,

    You write that Domestic Partnerships mean something very different to you. Great! That is why there are 31 flavors of ice cream. That is why there should be choice. Unfortunately, DP or Civil Unions with all the benefits of marriage are the only possibilities at the present time. Only about 35-40% of the public in the US supports same-sex marriage while about 57-60% of the public would support same-sex couples having all the rights of marriage just as long as it would not be called marriage. Of course that is illogical. But there it is. My suggestion: let’s grab the rights under any name we can, now, and try to work the rest out later. As someone who has been fighting for the rights of same-sex couples since 1983 I assure you, time will pass and progress will be made. Unless of course, we are too stubborn to take one step at a time and, foolishly, believe we can leap-frog over history.


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