Summersgill presses Mayor's office on DP recognition
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Summersgill presses Mayor's office on DP recognition


From:Bob Summersgill
Sent:Wednesday, January 28, 2009 9:07 PM
To:Christopher Dyer
Subject:Certify the Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships of other states as Domestic Partnerships in DC


Christopher:

I ask for your help in getting Mayor Fenty to certify the Civil Union and the comprehensive Domestic Partnership laws of other states and countries for recognition as Domestic Partnerships in the District of Columbia.

As we have discussed, the “Omnibus Domestic Partnership Equality Amendment Act of 2008,” Law 17-231, created a new section of code:

§ 32-702(i) Relationships established in accordance with the laws of other jurisdictions that are substantially similar to domestic partnerships established by this chapter, as certified by the Mayor, shall be recognized as domestic partnerships in the District.

The intention of this paragraph is to allow the District to extend recognition to the Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships, and similar relationships under various names in states and countries which have passed laws similar to the District.

Currently, that list should include:

California, Domestic Partnership
Connecticut, Civil Union
New Hampshire, Civil Union
New Jersey, Civil Union
Oregon, Domestic Partnership
Vermont, Civil Union
Washington State, Domestic Partnership

Andorra, unio estable de parella (stable union of pairs)
Australia, varies by state
Belgium, cohabitation légale, wettelijke samenwoning, gesetzliches zusammenwohnen (statutory cohabitation)
Denmark, registreret partnerskab (registered partnership)
Finland, rekisteröity parisuhde registrerad partnerskap (registered partnership)
France, Pacte civil de solidarité (civil solidarity pact)
Germany, Lebenspartnerschaft (life partnership)
Iceland, staðfesta samvist (confirmed cohabitation)
Luxembourg, partenariat enregistré, eingetragene partnerschaft (registered partnership)
Netherlands, geregistreerde partnerschap (registered partnership)
New Zealand, civil union
Norway, registrert partnerskap (registered partnership)
Sweden, registrerat partnerskap (registered partnership)
United Kingdom, civil partnership

The statute is also sufficiently broad to allow the Mayor to certify the recognition of marriages between same-sex couple in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Canada, Belgium, South Africa, Spain, and the Netherlands, which he should do.

Whether or not same-sex marriages are ultimately recognized as domestic partnerships or as marriages; the non-marriage relationships will still need to be recognized as domestic partnerships. Marriages between same-sex couples in Massachusetts and Connecticut can and should be recognized as Domestic Partnerships while we wait for a marriage equality bill to be enacted in the District. The six states with Civil Unions or Domestic Partnerships that do not also offer marriage equality recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions as Civil Unions or Domestic Partnerships under their own laws. All seven recognize Civil Unions and Domestic partnerships—including D.C.’s—as Civil Unions or Domestic Partnerships. D.C. should return that recognition.

New Jersey’s Attorney General issued a Formal Opinion stating in part:

“…government-sanctioned, same-sex relationships validly established under the laws of other States and foreign nations will be valid in New Jersey…” and “…those same-sex relationships from other jurisdictions that most closely approximate a New Jersey civil union—that is, relationships that provide substantially all of the rights and benefits of marriage—will be treated as civil unions under our law.” http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases07/ag-formal-opinion-2.16.07.pdf

New Hampshire has a simple statute:

§ 457-A:8 Other Jurisdictions. – A civil union or a marriage between a man and another man or a woman and another woman legally contracted outside of New Hampshire shall be recognized as a civil union in this state, provided that the relationship does not violate the prohibitions of this chapter. http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/XLIII/457-A/457-A-8.htm

Other states have similar reciprocity and recognition statutes.

The New Jersey criterion of “relationships that provide substantially all of the rights and benefits of marriage” is a very good criterion for certifying that a jurisdiction’s legal relationships should be recognized as Domestic Partnerships in the District.

Six of the seven states recommended for recognition make that definitive:

California Domestic Partnerships
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=fam&group=00001-01000&file=297-297.5
§ 297.5. (a) Registered domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law, whether they derive from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law, or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.

Connecticut Civil Unions
http://www.cga.ct.gov/2007/pub/Chap815f.htm#Sec46b-38nn.htm
§ 46b-38nn. Equality of benefits, protections and responsibilities. Parties to a civil union shall have all the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under law, whether derived from the general statutes, administrative regulations or court rules, policy, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted to spouses in a marriage, which is defined as the union of one man and one woman.

New Jersey Civil Unions
http://lis.njleg.state..nj.us/cgi-bin/om_isapi.dll?clientID=31735449&Depth=2&depth=2&expandheadings=on&headingswithhits=on&hitsperheading=on&infobase=statutes.nfo&record={DCED}&softpage=Doc_Frame_PG42
§ 37:1-31  Legal benefits, protections, responsibilities of civil union couples equal to those of married couples. 4. a. Civil union couples shall have all of the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under law, whether they derive from statute, administrative or court rule, public policy, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted to spouses in a marriage.

New Hampshire Civil Unions
http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/XLIII/457-A/457-A-6.htm
§ 457-A:6 Rights, Obligations, and Responsibilities. – Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, the parties who enter into a civil union pursuant to this chapter shall be entitled to all the rights and subject to all the obligations and responsibilities provided for in state law that apply to parties who are joined together pursuant to RSA 457. [RSA 457 is the marriage code http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/NHTOC/NHTOC-XLIII-457.htm.]

Oregon Domestic Partnerships
http://www.leg..state.or.us/ors/106.html
Chapter 99, Sec. 9. Certain privileges, immunities, rights, benefits and responsibilities granted or imposed. (1) Any privilege, immunity, right or benefit granted by statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other law to an individual because the individual is or was married, or because the individual is or was an in-law in a specified way to another individual, is granted on equivalent terms, substantive and procedural, to an individual because the individual is or was in a domestic partnership or because the individual is or was, based on a domestic partnership, related in a specified way to another individual.

Vermont Civil Unions
http://www.leg.state.vt.us/statutes/fullchapter.cfm?Title=15&Chapter=023
§ 1204. Benefits, protections and responsibilities of parties to a civil union (a) Parties to a civil union shall have all the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under law, whether they derive from statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted to spouses in a marriage.

Washington State, much like D.C., does not have a definitive statement of being legally equivalent to marriage. However, the expansive list of benefits and obligations is available from the Secretary of State at http://www.secstate.wa.gov/corps/domesticpartnerships/laws_and_regulations.aspx. It does not include pension and public employee benefit rights for same-sex couples, although legislation has been introduced to correct that deficiency. Consequently, I believe that Washington State domestic partnerships should also be certified.

States and countries which offer marriage equality to same-sex couples provide all of the rights and benefits of marriage by definition.

The list of States with Civil Union, comprehensive Domestic Partnerships, and marriage equality expands every year. Consequently, the list of certified states and countries must be updated routinely. There will be opportunities to expand the list later if questions remain about the laws in some states or countries. Certifying some now, and others later is okay.

Marriages in California between same-sex couples are under judicial review. It is not clear if they will remain recognized in California. Not certifying them now is reasonable.

However failing to certify the Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships in the states discussed above is an unreasonable burden to those couples while they are in the District by denying them hundreds of benefits and obligations.

I strongly recommend that the following list be certified now by the Mayor, pursuant to D.C. Code §32-702(i), as recognized as domestic partnerships in the District.

California, Domestic Partnership
Connecticut, Civil Union and same-sex marriage
Massachusetts, same-sex marriage
New Hampshire, Civil Union
New Jersey, Civil Union
Oregon, Domestic Partnership
Vermont, Civil Union
Washington State, Domestic Partnership
Canada, same-sex marriage
Belgium, same-sex marriage
Netherlands, same-sex marriage
South Africa, same-sex marriage
Spain, same-sex marriage

Please feel free to this email with other members of the Administration.

Thank you.

Bob Summersgill


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