Monday, March 31, 2008


Does your state have an advance health care directive registry? You may not know. I spoke about my book in Tucson, Arizona last week and told my audiences that the Arizona registry should be a model for other states. But almost no one in my audience knew that Arizona had such a registry! It's free; it's easy; and it provides anyone who registers a directive with a wallet card that you can carry with your driver's license. In an emergency, the hospital types the numbers on your wallet card into a database and retrieves your directive. Then all the medical personnel know your own wishes and whom you have selected to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. Same-sex couples rightly fear being shut out of medical decision-making if one of them has a medical emergency. But the solution to this problem isn't marriage; it's guaranteeing that EVERYONE, gay and straight, partnered and not, has the person they want making their health care decisions. We can and should solve this problem for all LGBT people, and we can do it now by getting more states to follow the example of Arizona. (Idaho is another good one; their wallet cards have bar codes.)

Saturday, March 22, 2008


The bus shelters in my city, Washington, DC, are plastered with full-length posters of brides and grooms and simply stated messages like "Married people earn more money" and "Marriage works" and "Kids with married parents do better in school." This public relations campaign is one more example of "marriage promotion," the activities that the federal government funds to the tune of $750 million. The message behind these efforts is that all our social problems -- poverty, illiteracy, chronic illness, substance abuse, violence, infant mortality, and so on -- are caused by the decline of life-long heterosexual marriage. This message is a lie. Two excellent sources for the truth are Bella DePaulo's book, Singled Out, and a report from the SIECUS public policy office, Legalized Discrimination. In chapter four of my book, Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage, I point out that blaming social problems on those who don't get and stay married relieves both the government and the market of any responsibility for those problems, diverting attention from the public disgrace of income inequality, inadequate health care, and poor schools. Just say "No!" to public funding of marriage promotion! Instead, let's take effective measures to reduce poverty.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


On Wednesday, March 12, Washington State Governor Gregoire will sign a law expanding the rights available to same-sex couples who register as domestic partners. It's a civil rights advance...making same-sex couples more like married different-sex couples (but still not equality!). But look at some of the rights that now only registered and married couples will get: the right not to lose your home when a co-owner of the home dies and the right to share a room in a nursing home. These rights shouldn't be tied to marriage or partner registration! NO ONE should lose the home they live in due to tax consequences when a co-owner of the home dies. And the right to share a room with a loved one in the final years of life should be about supporting and nurturing the relationships that bring happiness and emotional well-being to nursing home residents...not about marriage or domestic partnership.
In addition, unmarried couples in Washington state (gay and straight) already have their property divided when they split up in the same manner as married couples. It's a rule that I encourage other states to adopt!

Thursday, March 6, 2008


On Tuesday, the District of Columbia became the second city (after San Francisco) to require employers to give employees paid sick leave. Some last minute exemptions weakened the bill, which you can learn more about from the D.C. Employment Justice Center. Last summer, I testified before the D.C. City Council urging that the leave be available to care for a broad definition of "family members." Unfortunately, the City Council did not go as far as I hoped; they did not give private employees in D.C. the same protection that federal employees have to use their sick leave to care for "any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship." But they did include the ability to use one's sick leave to care for a person the employee has lived with for a year in a "committed relationship" which is a "familial relationship...characterized by mutual caring and the sharing of a mutual residence." This means same-sex and different-sex partners don't have to be registered as domestic partners to use their leave for this purpose and that two people don't need to be a "couple" to use this leave to care for each other as long as they live together in a relationship of mutual caring. An employee can also use his or her sick leave to take care of a child in the employee's home "for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility." The employee does NOT need to be the legal or biological parent of the child. This law is a step in the direction of valuing all families, although the federal employee definition is much better because it does not require living together.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


“The “M” word” [this is a phrase a justice used] loomed large in the arguments in the CA Supreme Court today. It had to, because California has registered domestic partnership which gives same-sex couples virtually the same legal consequences as marriage. The justices’ first questions were whether the state could eliminate the word “marriage” for everyone. Although the lawyers urging same-sex marriage said “no,” “yes” would be a better answer and the gay rights movement shouldn’t be afraid of it. The evil in current law is that a separate institution for same-sex couples ISN’T equal; it is a second-class status. This inequality demeans the love between two women or two men. But there are good reasons to eliminate the word “marriage” from our legal lexicon because of its linkage to religion and its history of exclusion and discrimination.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


The best short documentary Oscar went to "Freeheld," a film about a dying police officer's fight to ensure that her surviving partner would receive her pension. Gay rights groups are using the example of this movie as evidence of the need for marriage for same-sex couples. But the actual ending of the story is that the law changed to allow officers to leave their pensions to anyone they choose! This is the right result. If same-sex couples could marry, and officers could only leave pensions to their surviving spouses, then married gay and straight couples would be protected. But what about everyone else? The officer earned that pension and should be able to pass it on to those who need it most. That has nothing to do with marriage. Let's achieve marriage equality where possible as a civil rights goal. Let's achieve family policies that value all families. That will help more LGBT -- and straight -- people.


On Tuesday, March 4, the California Supreme Court will hear THREE HOURS of oral arguments in the cases seeking access to marriage for same-sex couples. With so much attention focused on California, it would be great for everyone to notice an aspect of California law that should be a model for all states -- including those with explicitly anti-gay policies. In California, a household member who depends on a worker's income can receive survivor's benefits if that worker dies on the job; marriage is NOT a prerequisite! Now that's an example of a law that values all families! The purpose of worker's comp survivor's benefits is to compensate someone for the loss of an economic provider; marriage is irrelevant to achieving that purpose. When openly gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk was assassinated in 1978, his surviving partner received these benefits. Marriage isn't the only way -- or the best way -- to assure economic security and emotional peace of mind for all families and relationships.