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Defining Domestic Partners

A little-noticed regulation defining domestic partnerships in state law looks like it could be the opening act for the General Assembly's upcoming debate over same-sex marriage.

The regulation was released by Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration this week in time for a new law on health insurance coverage to take effect Jan..1. The law, passed in the final hours of the legislature's winter session, requires health insurers to offer coverage to domestic partners if their employers ask for it.

The measure handily passed the House of Delegates. But to overcome resistance in the more conservative state Senate, its sponsors stripped out the definition of domestic partners and left it to the Maryland Insurance Administration to come up with language in a regulation.

The definition has incensed some Republicans. Domestic partners can be straight or gay and must be living together and in a "committed relationship of mutual interdependence" for at least six consecutive months, says the proposed regulation. 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.

Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr.Ö (R-Cecil County) called the regulation's issuance "a purely political move" by Democrats in Annapolis to lay the groundwork to legalize gay marriage when the legislature convenes for its 90-day session next month.

Advocates plan to push a same-sex marriage 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.

"This is an important area of public policy," said Smigiel, "and we've begun to legislate through executive orders and regulation. ..... Due diligence should take place."

But Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery), an advocate for same-sex marriage who sponsored the insurance measure, said the regulation is only reflecting what's in the new law.

At Smigiel's request, a joint House-Senate committee that oversees regulations will hold a hearing on the matter Thursday. As an emergency measure, it needs a committee vote to take effect before Jan..1. "It's a progressive reform," said Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's), the committee's Senate chairman.

By Phyllis Jordan  |  December 8, 2007; 9:44 AM ET
Categories:  Lisa Rein  
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Comments

It's about time! In our country based our freedom values, people shouldn't have to subscribe to religious, governmental, or societal requirements or expectations of marriage in order to qualify for equal rights.

Posted by: MarylandSunshine | December 8, 2007 11:02 AM | Report abuse

The people of Maryland do not support gay marriage. It's that simple. But then again, they didn't support O'Malley's tax plan either which is being rammed down our throats come Jan 1st. Now, all the legislature has to do with any harebrained proposal is tag it with the insidious term "progressive" and it's sure to get attention. You fruitcakes can cry "equal rights" all you want. In a democracy, the will of the people should always outweigh what a few zealots claim as their god-given rights. The KKK claims to have some god-given rights of their own that run counter to most of us. Do they deserve 501 (c) non-profit rights under Internal Revenue Service codes?

Posted by: Let the People Have Their Say | December 8, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

I am not sure what the objections are about. Gay couples fall in love and live their lives together just as straight couples do. Their bank accounts, mortgages, and lives are intertwined, just as with heterosexual couples.

Why on earth would the law allow partners in one case to share health benefits but not in the other? Do people really want people to be uninsured? Is animus toward gay couples really a justification for not treating them equitably under the law?

Maybe someone can explain to me where that incredible, even childish, animus is coming from. We ALL are part of this society, and we ALL deserve to be treated fairly under the law. Time for everyone to grow up and stop treating their personal dislikes and twitches as the basis for excluding gay people from living their lives just as non-gay people get to live theirs.

Posted by: Linguist | December 8, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

In response to "Let the people...", who wrote, "...You fruitcakes can cry "equal rights" all you want. In a democracy, the will of the people should always outweigh what a few zealots claim as their god-given rights..."

Really? Really???

Actually, our system is explicitly set up to protect the minority, including stigmatized ones like gay people, from the "tyrrany of the majority". You may not LIKE Baptists, but you CANNOT deprive them of the right to vote. You may despise albinos, but they get to go to public schools just like 'pigmented' people.

And you may think gay people are nutty as a fruitcake and fully deserving of your scorn for being different from you.

But you CANNOT exclude them from the institutions of our society. Because, guess what? It is THEIR society, too.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 8, 2007 1:46 PM | Report abuse

The notion that voting majorities can trample on the rights of minorities is of course not new.

And it is precisely why the "Founding Fathers" wrote protections into the Constitution.

What has changed in two centuries isn't the notion of equal protection under the law. Rather, it's that equal protection under the law extends beyond the limited class of white, Christian and Deist, male property owners who set the whole thing in motion. We now recognize that women, people of color, and, yes, even gay people, fall under its protection.

We shouldn't have to pass legislation explicitly protecting the rights of innocent gay people. But until such a time as full rights are automatically extended to them, it is up to the legislatures to represent them and up to the courts to protect their rights and see to it that their rights are fully protected.

That's not "activism". That's simply applying the equal protection clause whereever it applies, even in the case of unpopular minorities.

Posted by: Linguist | December 8, 2007 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Why does our system still focus on health care through employers? Any co-habitating, interdependent individuals should be under the same policy regardless of sexuality, kinship, and age (etc.).

Posted by: Kevin | December 8, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"Why does our system still focus on health care through employers?"

Because the minute a politician proposes that this is a legitimate function of a government of, for and by the people, the Right Wing begins screaming "Socialist".


It's a ploy. And it's a ploy that works brilliantly at the ballots. Until those Americans who today blithely support the status quo and buy the mindless labels, and vote against their very own interests, we are stuck.

I am firmly of the belief that the worst (that is, worst for our country) president of my lifetime was not George W. Bush.

Rather, it was Ronald Reagan.

After all, it was President Reagan who successfully convinced millions that "government isn't the solution to our problems, it IS the problem."

Ever since, we have been incapable of ever raising enough revenue to take care of our decrepit infrastructure, and increasingly unable and unwilling to have government provide even the most basic governmental functions, let alone extended ones like protecting the health of the populace.

After all, when the government "of, for and by the people" is the PROBLEM, how can we ever justify turning to it to SOLVE our problems?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 8, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

"After all, it was President Reagan who successfully convinced millions that "government isn't the solution to our problems, it IS the problem."

Yes, he so successfully convinced Americans that government is the problem that the federal government spends almost $2 trillion more than it did when Reagan took office. Don't fret, federal parasites, Americans still love big government as much as ever.

Posted by: Baltimoron | December 10, 2007 2:37 AM | Report abuse

While this is a state issue and I am running for Congress, I assume the voters may like to know where I stand on this matter.

First until about 100 years ago marriage was between a man and a women and their Church. Then Government choose to require licensing for "health" reasons a dubious excuse as best.

Because society has fallen for Big Brother Government's scam convincing them that they need government to take care of them, people give up their rights in order to secure priveldges from the state. Once they do this they still remain under the mistaken belief that these priviledges are rights. They are not.

Any two people can legally contract to share benifets or their wealth in any manner that they choose. When you expect Government to get involved and force employers to fund healthcare then you bring in all these moral disputes. Marriage between a man and a women has been given special priviledges I believe because their was an expectation that these union would produce children which carried additional burdens. Married couples and gay couples both perhaps do not require any such additional privledge since they might even have less burden than two seperate single individuals.

A much better soluton would be to form healthcare coops similar to the Pugent Sound Coop. Then gays can have their own coops that meet their needs and families can have theirs and single people can have there own. Certain coops may want to be open to all other may be closed.

It is much beeter to have the people own and control their healthcare systems, hire and fire the doctors and staff then relying on the governement or HMOs.

Then prehaps the local government not the federal goverment can provide for those that are unable to provide for them selves. Perhaps coops would take on some of this burden by provide a "corner of their field" for the poor. This would be far cheaper then our current system, since it removes many layers of profit and costs.

Coops could provide scholorships for prospective doctors and nurse in exchange for say 6 years of service at a reduced salary, provide preventive medicine alernative as prevention is a huge cost saver. There are main mutual car insurance companies so we know this model works.

That said this is a matter I would never vote for on a Federal level because I don't believe Congress is granted any powers over these matters.

Peter James 4 Congress 4th District
www.peterjames08.com

Posted by: Peter James | December 12, 2007 6:04 PM | Report abuse

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