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.