Fairness over divisiveness

Legislative advocate for the California Alliance for Pride & Equality (CAPE)

The California Assembly recently approved Carole Migden’s AB 25, a bill that would extend basic rights to registered domestic partners. Under AB 25, same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples (if one of the partners is over 62) will have the right to act as a conservator, inherit property, sue for wrongful death, relocate with a domestic partner without losing unemployment benefits, or use sick leave to care for an ill partner. They could also make medical decisions or file disability benefits on behalf of an incapacitated partner.

Over two-thirds of Californians believe that gay and lesbian families suffer hardships and obstacles because they lack the legal protections, benefits and responsibilities that are currently afforded only to married opposite-sex couples. The dozen rights in AB 25 are relatively small compared to over a thousand rights and responsibilities that opposite-sex couples automatically get when they get married. Nevertheless, they are critical because they give domestic partners the crucial tools required to take care of each other in times of crisis and need.

Something as fundamental as medical decision-making on behalf of an incapacitated partner, one may think, should be non-controversial. Health-care providers normally turn to an immediate family member to make medical decisions on the patient’s behalf if the patient lacks the capacity to make an informed decision regarding medical care. In cases of registered domestic partners, they have to worry about these basics because current law does not consider partners as family members. During these stressful times, we all expect our families to be treated with respect. The couple’s commitment to the domestic partnership certainly has signaled their desire to have each other make important decisions they cannot make for themselves.

A number of the Assemblymembers were targeted by the AB 25 opponents. They sent out mailers, published newspaper ads, and aired TV and radio spots to rally people against the bill. When the bill came before the Assembly, the targeted legislators criticized these scare tactics and rejected the anti-gay rhetoric. Bravo to all the Assemblymembers who stood up for fairness over divisiveness.

AB 25 is now in the state Senate for its consideration. We expect the opposition to continue and perhaps even intensify their attacks toward this critical piece of legislation. We hope that the Senate will soundly reject these attacks and pass AB 25 in the name of justice and basic fairness. Once AB 25 passes the California Legislature, we will wait for the governor’s signature in fulfillment of his recent public pledge to “sign a bill expanding domestic partnership benefits.”