GLAA is a Lambda Rising Affiliate! Click here and we'll get a commission on every item you purchase.
GLAA supports bill on surrogate decision-making
GAY AND LESBIAN ACTIVISTS ALLIANCE OF WASHINGTON
Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
August 8, 2005
The Honorable Adrian Fenty
Committee on Human Services
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
Chairman Adrian Fenty:
Bill 16-320, "Surrogate Decision-Making for Person with Mental Retardation Medical Care Act of 2005," is a welcome improvement over the similar Bill 15-401 from last session by recognizing domestic partnerships as a significant and legal relationship. The previous bill omitted domestic partners from the surrogate decision-making panel for persons with mental retardation and impaired decision-making capacity.
By registering as domestic partners, a couple is designating who should make medical decisions should they be unable to do so. In the tragic situation where a person loses the ability to make medical decisions for themselves through illness or accident, it is appropriate that their domestic partner would continue to have that authority.
We note that there is not a definition of domestic partner in the bill. We urge you to adopt the definition in D.C. Code Section 21-2202(2A) written by Councilmember Kathy Patterson:
(2A) "Domestic partner" means an adult person living with, but not married to, another adult person in a committed, intimate relationship. The term "domestic partner" shall include any adult who has registered as a domestic partner under the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992, effective June 11, 1992 (D.C. Law 9-114; D.C. Official Code § 32-701 et seq.), as well as any adult who has registered as a domestic partner in a substantially equivalent program administered by another jurisdiction.
This definition is particularly relevant to Sec. 21-2210, which establishes precedence for medical decision making. That list is identical to the list in this bill. The key factor in including this definition is that it expands coverage to couples who have not registered or who are visiting the District but have not registered under our program.
While it is advisable for couples to register, the vast majority of couples in the District have not. This is one of several instances where failure to register should not deprive couples of critical authority in a time of crisis.
Likewise, it is unreasonable to expect tourists to have to register their relationship when they visit, but they should not be denied these critical protections should tragedy strike them here.
Thank you for your attention to this important legislation.
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.
cc: Marion Barry
Vincent C. Gray