D.C. Gay Marriage Bill Preserves Domestic Partnerships
Last month, I argued against the provision in the D.C. same-sex marriage bill that would phase out domestic partnerships. In short: A lot of couples, gay and straight, don't want to have to opt into that problematic "marriage" business in order to secure our rights. Marriage still comes with a lot of unwanted shit, like an implicit reinforcement of outdated religious and social implications, not to mention our grandmothers' expectations for a big 'ol wedding.
Good news: Yesterday, a revised draft of the marriage bill was released that will retain domestic partnerships (for now, at least). Bad news: the revised bill also allows churches to refuse to make their facilities available for those same-sex couples who actually are into that whole "marriage" business.
The Washington Blade reports on the DP "tweaks":
During the committee’s two days of hearings, Catania said he was open to removing language he placed in the bill that called for ending the city’s registration of new domestic partnerships after January 2010. Catania noted that he put the provision in the bill because most states that have legalized same-sex marriage have ended existing domestic partnership or civil unions programs on grounds that most same-sex couples prefer marriage.
But a number of witnesses, including officials with the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance and lesbian rights attorney and American University law professor Nancy Polikoff, urged the Council to remove the “sunset” clause for domestic partnerships from the marriage bill. These witnesses suggested that the Council take up the domestic partnerships issue at a later date and through separate legislation.
Right now, we're focused on securing marriage equality, and that's an extremely important step. But hopefully, by the time the council gets around to considering domestic partnerships, we'll be able to look beyond marriage and consider our other options on their own merits. Even when same-sex marriages are recognized, we will still need to address how some marriage rights discriminate against those couples and singles who opt out of the institution. Right now, it may be true that "most same-sex couples prefer marriage," but I believe that may begin to change as the institution evolves and more options are made socially acceptable. A lot of people just don't want to get married, period, and they shouldn't have to do so to get their rights.
On to the religious side:
On the religious exemption provision, Catania’s original bill noted that “a religious organization, association or society, or a nonprofit organization which is operated, supervised, or controlled by” a church or religious group “shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities or goods” for the purpose of performing any marriage “unless the entity makes such services, accommodations, or goods available … to members of the general public.”
The revised bill removes the “unless the entity makes such services, accommodations, or goods available … to members of the general public” language.
Seeing as I would never be interested in getting married in one of these God-forsaken places anyway, this language is less important to me personally. But it's extremely unsettling that the council's bill includes an allowance for religious institutions to discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation. The provision, at the very least, serves as a reminder that even when same-sex marriage is legal, marriage will still be fucked up in a lot of ways. Why not just opt out and go for a domestic partnership?