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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why Marriage Matters

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports:
On the wall of their Henderson home, Brittney Leon and Terri-Ann Simonelli proudly display their certificate of domestic partnership. Under a 2009 state law, the document gives them all the rights of married couples. Or so they thought.

When Leon, 26, checked into Spring Valley Hospital on July 20 with complications in her pregnancy, she assumed that her partner Simonelli, 41, could make any necessary medical decisions if she suffered unforeseen problems. But that's not what happened, they said. An admissions officer told them the hospital policy required gay partners to secure power of attorney before making any medical decisions for each other.

They protested, even offering to go home and return with their domestic partnership document. But they said the admissions officer told them that didn't matter - Simonelli would need a power of attorney. Considering Leon's condition, Simonelli wasn't in a position to argue or spend hours running to a law office. But the admission officer's words left them devastated in a moment that they already were under extreme stress.

Leon ended up losing her baby.

"I am usually a big fighter. But I was so emotionally upset. It was a very bad day for us," said Simonelli, a hotel parking valet and website designer. "We went there thinking we had the state's backing, and then we were told we were wrong. It didn't matter that we were registered domestic partners. It should matter."

A woman who identified herself as public relations representative at Spring Valley Hospital told a Review-Journal reporter in a phone interview that the hospital policy requires gay couples have power of attorney in order to make medical decisions for each other. When asked if she was aware of Nevada's domestic partnership law, she accused the reporter of bias and hung up the telephone.

That law states: "Domestic partners have the same rights, protections and benefits, and are subject to the same responsibilities, obligations and duties under law, whether derived from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses."

Gay marriage is prohibited in Nevada by constitutional amendment, so domestic partners are not considered legally married. But they have the same rights under law as married couples. The only difference is that employers do not have to provide health care benefits to gay couples, even if they are provided to married, heterosexual couples.

During hearings on the domestic partners bill, proposed by state Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, numerous gay couples testified that the law was needed in part because they had been denied the right to make medical decisions for their partners, or to stay with them in the hospital.

There is no specific penalty for businesses that discriminate against domestic partners. They can file complaints with Nevada Equal Rights Commission, which investigates and tries to reach an agreement with the business to follow the law.

As I have written here in the Blue Truck any number of times, you are not a full citizen until you can marry. Historically, children, slaves, the insane, and prisoners were all prohibited from marrying. You are not grown up, you are not fully competent, you are not free - until you can marry.

Not crappy little domestic partnerships that aren't worth the paper they're printed on - not Jim Crow civil unions to keep you "separate but equal," which is never the case - nothing but full, complete, identical civil marriage will ever protect you, or be respected by the rest of the population.

And hey - you guys milling around over there at the back of the bar, muttering shit about how you don't see a need for all that: if you don't want to marry, then don't. Just say no. You can't handle the responsibility, you don't feel the love - then you shouldn't marry. Ever. It's not for tricking around, if that's all you want out of life.

But for the rest of us - it makes all the difference in the world.

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