Opinion

In support of equality, Ref. 71 deserves approval

Come Nov. 3, people in this state will have a chance to decide whether to be fair or not to others who do not have the same set of circumstances they do. Thanks to a group of people who are threatened by this proposition, the law on domestic partnerships is now before the voting public in Referendum 71.

The people who are anti-domestic partnerships are trying to portray this as all about gay rights. That is a narrow and simplistic view. They are clearly trying to tap into an emotional component of people in the hopes that approach will lead to overturning the law.

I sincerely hope the majority sees through this ruse and defeats the measure. The domestic partnership law does not put those in such relationships on any sort of equal footing with marriage. It does, however, allow more of those rights married people take for granted to be extended toward them.

Imagine how it must feel to not see a sick loved one in a hospital simply because one is not married to that person. Or not be able to give consent for medical treatment for a loved one unable to do so. Or not inherit property unless there is a will (something not everyone gets around to doing timely…). All these things have happened to gay couples and heterosexual couples who have chosen not to marry.

The first domestic partnership law in 2007 fixed those items (source: Seattle Times, Oct. 4, 2009). It also restricted heterosexual couples to having at least one partner aged 62 or older.

More rights were expanded in 2008. According to the same article mentioned above, the “law expanded into areas of financial security, addressing jointly owned property and debts, estate planning and taxes, and also providing for nursing home visits and rights to certain veteran benefits.”

The article continues with “This version … would expand the law to include registered partners in all other areas of state law that now apply only to married couples, entitling partners, among other things to: use sick leave to care for one another; receive an injured partner’s wages and benefits, unemployment and disability insurance benefits; (receive) death benefits for partners of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty; and receive benefits for partners of teachers and other public employees.”

What the laws do not, and cannot cover, are all the federal regulations that apply only to married couples. Again, according to the article in quoting Sen. Ed Murray, “More than 1,100 federal protections and benefits afforded to married couples — from joint tax filings to Social Security benefits — do not apply to state-registered domestic partners…”

Clearly, this is not an equal situation between domestic partnerships and married people. Married people do not have to worry about losing any of these rights if they go into a state that does not recognize domestic partnerships.

Every state in our country now recognizes the marriage certificates of all other states. Prior to the civil rights laws, the southern states did not recognize the marriage of interracial couples. Nowadays, people would be rightfully outraged if a mixed-race couple was told their marriage was not valid. But, that legal recognition does not currently extend to domestic partnerships.

It is unfortunate those who oppose this humane treatment of non-married couples see this as the beginning of the end of life as they know it. Terrorism, unnecessary war, global warming, famine, disease — these all do far more damage to our world than allowing unmarried couples the legal protections enjoyed by married folk.

Why can’t gay couples and unmarried heterosexual pairs enjoy these rights? How is this fair or right to deny them these quality of life issues? This is our opportunity to set things right. Support your fellow citizens and approve Referendum 71.

Val Torrens appears in the CK Reporter the second and fourth Friday of every month.

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