GLAA urges inclusion of domestic partners
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.
in bill on surrogate decision-making
P.O. Box 75265
Testimony on Bill 15-401,
"Surrogate Decision-Making for Persons with Mental Retardation
Medical Care Act of 2003"
Delivered before the Committee on Human Services
June 21, 2004
Good morning Chairman Allen, members of the Council and fellow citizens. My name is Bob Summersgill, I am the treasurer of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on Bill 15-401, Surrogate Decision-Making for Persons with Mental Retardation Medical Care Act of 2003. I will not speak to the merits of this legislation, but rather we are asking for a series of amendments to include domestic partnerships in the list of family members who have a role in medical decision making.
This bill makes seven uses of the phrase "parent, spouse, adult child, legal guardian" with various other relationships including adult sibling, advocates of persons with mental disabilities, other known living relatives, and interested party. In no place is there a mention of domestic partners.
Domestic partners were created in 1992 as a legal entity defined in the D.C. Code as "a familial relationship between 2 individuals characterized by mutual caring and the sharing of a mutual residence." Therefore they must be explicitly cited and recognized wherever relevant, as in this legislation and elsewhere. [Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992, D.C. Law 9-114, Official Code §32-701].
The Health-Care Decisions Act of 2003, [D.C. Law 15-17, Official Code §21-2202] specifically amended the D.C. Code to include domestic partners and close friends among the persons authorized to make health-care decisions for incapacitated individuals. It would be inconsistent not to include domestic partners in the medical decision making in this bill.
Leaving out domestic partners also diminishes the wishes of individuals who have taken the legal step of entering into a domestic partnership as a way of designating a person to make medical decisions when they cannot do so for themselves.
While older sections of the D.C. Code have not been modernized to reflect the reality and existence of domestic partners, all new legislation should, and any bill that includes rights and responsibilities for spouses must also include domestic partnerships.
We ask that you do not pass this legislation without amending each of the following sections to add ", domestic partner" after "spouse":
Section 8 (e) (2)
Section 9 (b) (2)
Section 9 (b) (3)
Section 9 (c)
Section 9 (k)
Section 13 (a)
Thank you for your consideration. I am available to answer any questions that you may have.