Schwartz writes Speaker Hastert in defense of Domestic Partners
The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
Speaker of the House
United States House of Representatives
2263 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Re: Enforcement of District of Columbia Domestic Partnership Law
Dear Speaker Hastert:
I am writing to urge you to oppose inclusion of language in the 2001 District of Columbia Appropriations Bill that would continue to prohibit the District of Columbia from enforcing its domestic partnership law.
The District enacted the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act in 1992, extending domestic partnership benefits to District government employees. Since then, at least 35 U.S. cities, ten counties and five states have devised and implemented some form of domestic partnership benefits for government employees. These include cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Tucson. They include the states of California, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Hawaii. And they include two neighboring municipalities of the District of Columbia, Montgomery County in Maryland and Arlington County in Virginia.
In each and every instance, lawmakers acted on what they viewed as being in the best interests of their constituencies. The difference between the District and these jurisdictions, however, is that Congress can and does prevent D.C. from enforcing its law through the insertion of prohibitive language in our Appropriations Act. In fairness to the District of Columbia, may that please end this year.
I have been involved in city government in some capacity for nearly 30 years. During this time, I have come to know many gay and lesbian individuals, as well as many unmarried heterosexual couples, who have made Washington their home. Not only are these citizens deserving of our equal consideration, they also are vital to our tax base and are often intensely involved in rebuilding and revitalizing neighborhoods that have long suffered from abandonment or neglect. If the District remains unable to enforce its domestic partnership law, then I fear we will begin to lose these valuable residents to our neighboring jurisdictions that are not subject to congressional actions prohibiting the enforcement of domestic partnership statutes.
In addition to the many states and localities that have adopted domestic partnership laws, dozens of well-respected corporations have decided that it is in their best business interests to provide domestic partnership benefits to their employees. These include such mainstays of American industry as AT&T, Eastman Kodak Co., J.P. Morgan and Co., Marriott International, General Mills and at least 80 other Fortune 500 companies. Hundreds of smaller businesses also provide domestic partnership benefits, as do many law firms, medical practices, accounting firms, colleges and universities.
I have long been an advocate for meaningful domestic partnership laws with all inherent rights and responsibilities. I believe that by providing domestic partnership benefits, we not only help keep our citizens healthy, but we also promote stable relationships.
In light of the many developments in the area of domestic partnership in both the public and private sectors over the past eight years, I think it is high time that Congress removes the prohibitive language regarding the District of Columbia's law from the FY 2001 Appropriations Bill and all subsequent D.C. Appropriations Bills.
I would be happy to discuss this matter with you personally. Please do not hesitate to contact me at 202-724-8105, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
cc: Members of the United States Senate
Members of the United States House of Representatives
Members of the Council of the District of Columbia
Mayor Anthony Williams
President Bill Clinton