Wearing my Alternatives to Marriage button and carrying a sign saying “Don’t throw domestic partners under the marriage equality bus”, I headed into the offices of the District Council yesterday afternoon to attend the hearing on gay marriage. The hearing proved so popular that I was only able to join other visitors in an overflow room, but I watched several rounds of testimony there on closed-circuit TV. The opinions proved to be diverse and passionate.
Nearly 300 individuals have signed up to testify before the Council on this bill that would allow same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia — including AtMP! I’m slated to testify at the second round of the hearing, to take place next Monday, Nov. 2, at 9:30am. Officials report that this is the largest number of requests to testify at a hearing that it has seen in decades.
Most of the testimony centered on the pros and cons of allowing same-sex marriage licenses to be offered by the District government, and, while AtMP supports the rights of same-sex couples to marry, we will testify that this bill unnecessarily harms other couples by ending the District’s domestic partnership registry program. The current program requires that partners be over 18, competent, living together and neither married nor already registered as domestic partners. That means that domestic partnerships are open to same- and different-sex couples as well as other types of partners including those related by blood (such as siblings). Domestic partners are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as spouses. The District’s program is so well-written and comprehensive that it has served as a model for other programs across the country.
But while endeavoring to expand rights for some same-sex couples who would choose to marry, this bill, if passed as written, would deny rights to other couples who would not, or could not, marry under the new law. At the continuation of the hearing next Monday, I will argue that this is an unwarranted and unfair step backward and this language should be removed from the bill.
So, join us in spirit by emailing the Council and tell them not to discontinue the domestic partnership registry. And, if you’re in DC, join me in person at the hearing on Monday, November 2, at 9:30 a.m. in the 5th Floor Council Chambers, John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004.
To learn more about D.C.’s domestic partnership registry, and the reasons we don’t want it to end, read AtMP’s official testimony.
And if you wish to watch any or all of the 7 hours of the first part of the hearing, you can download the video.