ACLU endorses Domestic Partnership enhancement bill
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ACLU endorses Domestic Partnership enhancement bill

American Civil Liberties Union
of the National Capital Area
1400 - 20th Street NW, Suite 119
Washington, DC 20036-5920

May 16, 2005

The Honorable
Phil Mendelson, Chairperson
Committee on the Judiciary
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

Re: Domestic Partnership Equality Act of 2005, Bill 16-52

Dear Chairperson Mendelson:

The ACLU of the National Capital Area strongly supports the adoption of the Domestic Partnership Equality Act of 2005, Bill 16-52, and commends your initiative in introducing this proposal.

The District of Columbia has long been a leader in ensuring the rights of all its residents as attested by the its Human Rights Act, D.C. Code 2-1401.01 et seq. Indeed, its protections go well beyond those offered by federal law especially for gay men and lesbian women. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is explicitly prohibited. This Council took the additional step of recognizing the "domestic partnership" relationship, D.C. Code 32-701 et seq. That statute, in addition to providing specific benefits for the domestic partners of District employees, importantly provides that health care facilities must afford domestic partners the right to visit their "family members." D.C. Code 32-704. The bill before you, the Domestic Partnership Equality Act of 2005, takes the protection of gay men and lesbian women to the next required step.

As a matter of essential fairness, there is no reason why gay men and lesbian women who are in a committed relationship should not enjoy the same protection under the law as is afforded to comparable heterosexual couples. Why, for example, should a gay or lesbian domestic partner be compelled to testify against his/her partner when the law prohibits compelled testimony by one spouse against another? To deny one couple that protection while affording it to the other reflects a blatant disrespect for gay men and lesbian women, which the District of Columbia rejected long ago.

We realize that some may consider Bill 16-52 a "half-measure," and insist on full equality between gay/lesbian and heterosexual couples now. While that should be the goal of all fair-minded people, we believe that the incremental approach taken by Bill 16-52 offers the best opportunity for making real progress at this time.

In sum, the ACLU of the National Capital Area urges the passage of Bill 16-52, and asks that this letter be included in the Committee's Report.

Thank you.


Johnny Barnes
Executive Director

Stephen M. Block
Legislative Counsel