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Polikoff testifies on Domestic Partnership Amendments Act
"Domestic Partnership Amendments Act of 2007," Bill 17-0135
(revised committee print)
D.C. City Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary
Friday, October 19, 2007
My name is Nancy D. Polikoff. I am a Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law, where I have taught Family Law for more than 20 years. I have lived in the District of Columbia for more than 30 years, in Ward 5, Ward 1, and, for the past two years, in Ward 3. For all of this time, as a scholar, litigator, policy analyst and advocate, I have worked on issues involving gay and lesbian families, especially gay and lesbian parents. I previously submitted testimony on Bills 17-0135 and 17-0136.
I commend the committee for its work on this legislation. I would like to echo the arguments made by Bob Summersgill in his testimony for removing the gender specific terms “husband” and “wife” from the D.C. Code.
Because this bill does not address important parenting-related issues, I urge the committee to follow up this bill with one that does. Such legislation should be guided by the following twin equality principles: 1) the law should treat children born to registered domestic partners identically to the way it treats children born to married heterosexual couples; and 2) the law should treat children born to domestic partners who are not registered identically to the way it treats children born to heterosexual couples who are not married. The law will have to clarify the parentage of children born through donor insemination, a procedure used by lesbian couples as well as by heterosexual couples where the man is infertile. At the moment, DC has no statute on the subject of donor insemination, even for married couples, while more than 30 states do. Legislation is necessary to establish certainty for children born as a result of this form of assisted reproduction.
My previous testimony proposed specific language amending sections 16-907, 16-908, 16-909, 7-205, and 16-2345 of the D.C. Code to achieve these goals, so I won’t repeat that language here. I commend committee chair Mendelson for beginning work already on the “Domestic Partner Parentage and Support Act,” the preliminary draft of which has been shared with me. I look forward to working with this committee as it drafts comprehensive legislation on this important subject.
Furthermore, my previous testimony pointed out that the D.C. Code refers in at least 21 separate code provisions to step-relationships, i.e., stepparents, stepchildren, stepbrothers, and stepsisters. These are commonly understood as relationships created when adults who already have children marry. As an example of the tangible importance of being in a step-relationship, a stepchild is a “dependent child” for purposes of D.C. government employee benefits (e.g., D.C. Code §1-621.03 (3)(B) and §1-622.04(2)(B)); and stepsiblings, stepparents, and stepchildren of D.C. government employees are eligible for disability compensation (D.C. Code §1-623.01 (7),(8), and (9)).
Rather than amending each separate code provision that applies to step-relationships, I would urge the Council to include in this bill, Bill 17-0135, The Domestic Partnership Amendments Act of 2007, the following amendment to D.C. Code 1-301.45, Construction of terms set forth in acts or resolutions:
To add new subsection (11) reading as follows:
The words for step-relationships, such as “stepparent,” “stepmother,” “stepfather,” “stepchild,” “stepbrother,” and “stepsister,” include relationships created by a parent’s domestic partnership registration under D.C. Code § 32-702(a).
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in drafting this important legislation.