P.O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
For Immediate Release
Monday, February 9, 2004
GLAA identifies 212 rights and responsibilities
of marriage in the District of Columbia
The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C. has published a report identifying all 212 rights and responsibilities of marriage under D.C. law. The report is available on the GLAA website at http://www.glaa.org/archive/2004/glaamarriagereport.pdf.
Couples -- gay and straight -- marry for the same reasons: love, companionship, public recognition of their relationship, bonding of families, and raising children among others. The rights and responsibilities of marriage are often taken for granted by straight couples. Nonetheless, these sections of D.C. law define what a civil marriage is, and in doing so enumerate what is being denied to gay and lesbian couples.
This document may help us to better understand what marriage means in D.C. law and identify those areas that may be amended in the short term to expand the rights of domestic partners. Domestic partnership in D.C. is open to both gay and straight couples, but it is most often used by gay couples who are barred from marrying.
D.C. has a higher percentage of gay and lesbian coupled households (5.14%) than any state, according to analysis of the 2000 census by the Human Rights Campaign, which is online at http://www.hrc.org/Content/ContentGroups/FamilyNet/Documents/census.pdf. When comparing counties, only San Francisco County has a higher percentage (6.91%). 3,678 same-sex couples in the District were identified by the census, a 66% increase over 1990. The number of gay couples is generally considered an undercount because of the indirect way that same-sex couples are identified among other factors.
Existing D.C. laws provide domestic partners with 8 of the 212 rights and responsibilities of civil marriage:
- Domestic partners may visit each other in hospitals.
- Domestic partners may make medical decisions if their partners are incapacitated.
- Employers are required to allow employees to take leave to care for their partners.
- If a partner dies, the survivor may claim their partner's remains.
- Domestic partners are protected under the D.C. domestic violence law.
- D.C. government employees may take sick leave to care for their partner or partner's children.
- D.C. government employees may purchase health insurance for their partners at their own expense.
- D.C. government employees may use their opportunity account funds for their partner's education or business start-up.
Federal law has 1049 rights and responsibilities of marriage, none of which may be gained through domestic partnerships or civil unions. A 1997 report from the United States General Accounting Office identifying those sections of law is available online at http://www.gao.gov/archive/1997/og97016.pdf.
The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC, is a local, all-volunteer, non-partisan, non-profit political organization, founded in 1971 to advance the equal rights of gay men and lesbians in the District of Columbia. It is the nation's oldest continuously active gay and lesbian civil rights organization.