GLAA celebrates as new health care decisions law takes effect
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Health-Care Decisions Act of 2003 (PDF file)

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GLAA defending our families

NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release

June 25, 2003

CONTACT: Kevin Davis
(202) 667-5139

GLAA celebrates as new health care decisions law
takes effect


The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington (GLAA), the nation's oldest continuously active gay and lesbian civil rights organization, is celebrating a new health care decisions law that took effect on June 21, 2003.

The new statute, "Health-Care Decisions Act of 2003," which amends DC Code to include domestic partners and close friends among the persons authorized to make health-care decisions for incapacitated individuals, was passed by the Council and signed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams earlier this year. It became effective on June 21 upon completion of the mandatory 30-legislative-day Congressional review period. No efforts were made on Capitol Hill to overturn the legislation, which was originally Bill 15-37 but which will henceforth be known as D.C. Law 15-17.

The new law expands the rights and responsibilities of domestic partners to make medical decisions for each other when the patient is unable to make medical decisions because of accident, illness or injury. Unregistered couples as well as close friends are explicitly recognized as having standing in making medical decisions.

At GLAA's suggestion, partners registered in DC as well as other jurisdictions are automatically recognized under the new law.

GLAA President Kevin Davis lauded the leadership of Councilmembers Kathy Patterson, Jack Evans and Jim Graham who introduced the legislation. It was cosponsored by every other member the DC Council.

The need was brought to the Council's attention by medical staff at the George Washington University Hospital. They had encountered an unfortunate situation where a patient was in a coma and their unmarried partner of many years had no legal standing to make any medical decisions on the patient's behalf, leaving such crucial decisions in the hands of distant relatives.

The District's domestic partnership law, the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992 was blocked from implementation by the U.S. Congress for 10 years. During that period, domestic partner benefits have become commonplace among private employers. Public sector employees across the country are gaining domestic partner benefits at an ever increasing rate.


For further details, please consult the full text of the law at:
www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/images/00001/20030408145141.pdf

Mr. Craig Howell's testimony on the bill from last December is on GLAA's website at:
www.glaa.org/archive/2002/glaahealthcaredecisions1205.shtml


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