The evolution of domestic partnerships

Timothy Kincaid

January 16th, 2013

Representative Cathy Connolly (D-Albany) has submitted two bills to the Wyoming legislature, one providing for marriage equality and one providing for domestic partnerships. Both bills have bipartisan support in the House, and the domestic partnership bill has bipartisan support in the Senate.

While marriage is highly preferable, either bill would be a great improvement in the lives of gay couples in the state. And even the domestic partnership bill has taken a step further than other DP bills have.

Domestic Partnerships were first proposed in San Francisco in the late 70’s. The City Counsel approved such a provision in 1982, but then-mayor Diane Feinstein vetoed the bill (San Francisco finally got domestic partnerships in 1990). In 1985, the newly chartered city of West Hollywood created the first Domestic Partner registry.

In 1999, the State of California passed the first state-wide domestic partnership bill. The benefits were limited; it provided for a public registry, hospital visitation rights, and authorized health insurance coverage for domestic partners of public employees. Over the next several years, additional benefits and obligations were added and the California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003 provided that (nearly) all provisions that impact marriage also impact domestic partnerships (though as recently as 2011, additional tinkering was required).

Oregon (in 2007) and Nevada (in 2009) started where California ended up. Oregon’s HB2007 Section 9 starts with “Any privilege, immunity, right or benefit granted by statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other law to an individual because the individual is or was married” and runs for about 500 more words. Nevada’s SB283 Section 7 manages to squeeze the definition down to about 365 words and begins thusly:

Domestic partners have the same rights, protections and benefits, and are subject to the same responsibilities, obligations and duties under law, whether derived from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.

But the proposed Wyoming law takes a unique approach and, I think, one which reflects the evolution in the nation’s thinking about same-sex couples.

For purposes of Wyoming statutes, administrative rule, policy, common law or any other source of civil or criminal law, the term “spouse” shall include a party to a domestic partnership contract evidenced by a certificate issued pursuant to this chapter.

No longer are domestic partners treated just like spouses. Should this bill become law, in Wyoming domestic partners would be spouses.

LostChoi

January 16th, 2013

Sounds like Wyoming is trying to live up to its nickname of “The Equality State.”

Mark F.

January 16th, 2013

Wyoming has a strong libertarian streak. It was the first state to allow women to vote and it decriminalized sodomy before Lawrence. Also, recent attempts to pass very restrictive abortion bills have failed.It is not the Bible Belt.

So, maybe there is a chance here.

Matt

January 16th, 2013

Very (pleasantly) surprised to hear that Wyoming is even considering something like this.

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