Debate on Domestic Partnership Expected in January
The first big controversy of the 2008 session of the General Assembly could play out one day after it opens.
At 2 p.m. Jan..10, the joint House-Senate committee that oversees government regulations will hold a hearing on a proposed regulation defining domestic partnerships in state law. The debate is likely to be the opening volley in a battle between advocates and opponents of same-sex marriage.
The regulation was released this month by the Maryland Insurance Administration to comply with a new law on health insurance coverage that takes effect Jan..1. The law requires insurance companies to offer benefits to domestic partners if their employers ask for it.
Missing was a definition of domestic partner. The proposed regulation says such couples can be straight or gay and must be living together and in a "committed relationship of mutual interdependence" for at least six consecutive months. The couple can verify their union with three documents, choosing from among other items a will, a joint bank account and a driver's license listing a common address.
Some Republicans say that's much too generous a definition and a move by Democrats in Annapolis to lay the groundwork to legalize same-sex marriage in the upcoming session. Advocates plan to push such a bill after losing their bid in the state's highest court this fall, and opponents plan to fight back with an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.
The hearing before the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review should be well attended.
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