GLAA endorses two domestic partnership bills
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Bill 16-590

Bill 16-671

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GLAA endorses two domestic partnership bills

Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013

Testimony on Bill 16-590,
Domestic Partnership Adoption Equality Act of 2006


Bill 16-671,
Domestic Partnership Property Equity Act of 2006

Delivered before the Committee on the Judiciary

June 15, 2006

Good morning, Chairman Mendelson, Councilmembers and fellow citizens.

My name is Bob Summersgill. I am the former treasurer of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C. (GLAA), the oldest continuously active gay and lesbian civil rights organization in the country.

We are in favor of these bills and we are pleased that Councilmembers Kathy Patterson and Jack Evans have introduced them, and that you are holding a timely hearing.

Bill 16-0590, Domestic Partnership Adoption Equality Act of 2006 is an incremental step towards giving domestic partners all of the relevant rights and responsibilities of marriage. It does not change who may adopt. Instead it streamlines the procedures for a person to adopt the children of their domestic partner.

Section 2(b) ensures that a domestic partner does not adopt without the consent of their partner, just as a person may not adopt without the consent of their spouse. The first sentence, “Any person may petition the court for a decree of adoption,” is not changed in this bill.

The definition of “marital status” is being added to avoid the potential problem of domestic partners being inappropriately excluded. The definition is nearly identical to the definition in the Human Rights Act, § 2-1401.02 (17), with the exception that pregnancy has been removed to avoid the potential problem of an adoption being disrupted by the parent becoming pregnant.

Section 2(c) provides that domestic partners are treated in the same manner as married couples when adopting each others’ children.

When a child is being adopted into a family, the law requires variety of procedures to ensure that the child is being placed into an appropriate home.

However, when a family with a single-parent and a child or children is adding a second parent, the investigation, report, and interlocutory decree, requirements of same race and religion, etc., should be waived. The bill simply adds domestic partners to married couples for this waiver.

Section 2(d) of the bill makes a minor change in paragraph 16-312(a) to recognize domestic partners in inheritance rights of adopted children, which brings the section into line with the recently passed Domestic Partnership Equality Act of 2005.

We have heard that there is some concern over possible Congressional interference on this bill. We believe that the Congress will not act to limit our rights. In 1999 the House of Representatives defeated the Largent Amendment that would have banned adoptions by unmarried couples in the District. Since then, they have lifted the restriction of D.C. implementing the domestic partnership program, and seven bills to expand the rights and responsibilities of domestic partners. All but four states—Florida, Utah, Mississippi, and Michigan—allow sex-sex couples to adopt. While there is always the risk of Congressional interference, we strongly believe that the risk in this case in minor.

Bill 16-0671, Domestic Partnership Property Equity Act of 2006 similarly is an incremental step that provides domestic partners rights and responsibilities similar to married couples, clarifying their responsibilities for debts in common.

Changes in the domestic partnership law in the Deed Recordation Tax and Related Amendments Amendment Act of 2004 and the Domestic Partnership Equality Act of 2005 allow domestic partners to more readily intermingle their finances. This bill clarifies that, like married couples, domestic partners are responsible for debts entered into together, and the costs for “necessaries” for either of them or for their dependent children, such as rent, food, etc. Partners and spouses are not responsible for debts due to luxury items, gambling debts, or debts owed prior to the marriage or domestic partner registration.

The bill edits the cumbersome paragraph in D.C. Code § 46-601, splitting it into three paragraphs.

Section 2(b)(1) restates that individuals retain their rights even when married or in a domestic partnership. This section of the existing law essentially ended the subjugation of women in marriage decades ago.

Section 2(b)(2) states that the couples are responsible for their debts in common, but not for debts that they were not a party to.

Section 2(b)(3) deals with the specific situation of someone who marries before they are 18 years old. The section does not apply to domestic partners, and it is essentially unchanged.

Thank you for your attention. I would be glad to answer any questions you may have.