"Domestic partnerships" aren't enough

Nevada’s domestic partnership law provides for rights and responsibilities that are similar, but not identical, to marriage. Among these are hospital visitation rights and the ability to make healthcare decisions for one’s spouse if they’re unable. But that wasn’t good enough for Spring Valley Hospital. When Terri-Ann Simonelli asked if she would be able to make decisions on behalf of her partner Brittany Leon, who was experiencing complications with her pregnancy, if she were incapacitated, they were told a domestic partnership wasn’t enough:

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.

Leon later lost the pregnancy. The hospital still isn’t budging:

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.

This is why civil unions, domestic partnerships, reciprocal beneficiaries and all other recently-invented “marriage alternatives” for same-sex couples are simply inadequate. Most people are completely unfamiliar with what these new legal devices actually mean in a practical sense, whereas the properties and implications of a marriage are firmly established and widely recognized. They know what a marriage is, but they don’t know what a “domestic partnership” is. As long as certain classes of people are barred from marriage and instead offered these weak substitutes, their relationships will never be seen as equal. No one can honestly believe that the rest of the world will treat these loving commitments as they would treat marriages – even the government couldn’t bring itself to treat them as marriages.

"Domestic partnerships" aren't enough
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11 thoughts on “"Domestic partnerships" aren't enough

  1. 2

    This story is very sad.This is why couples who care for each other and want to get married should have the right to do so in a free society.How can anyone be against such a thing?With the divorce rate being as high as it is for cisgendered couples what’s the worst thing that could happen by allowing same sex couples to get married?

  2. 3

    This blows a pretty big hole in the idea that same sex couples are being provided with an equal institution that just happens to have a different name.

    Another problem is that, even if this is the intention, people clearly will treat the ‘civil union’ or ‘domestic partnership’ as inferior if they get the chance much of the time, which puts the burden of proof on the person in the union who now has to go out of there way to constantly prove or explain what legal rights they have, oftentimes in situations where they won’t really have the time like a medical emergency.

  3. 4

    Most people are completely unfamiliar with what these new legal devices actually mean in a practical sense, whereas the properties and implications of a marriage are firmly established and widely recognized. They know what a marriage is, but they don’t know what a “domestic partnership” is.

    I agree that actual marriage needs to be legal. But I suspect this particular staff would’ve just demanded a notarized copy of the couples’ marriage license. Their behavior on the follow-up phone call indicates to me that they wanted to stall/block equal treatment for as long as they can get away with it, and ‘ignorance of the law’ was probably not the main issue.

    In reality, hospitals probably had the right to ask for proof of marriage of anyone, all along. Gay marriage (in any form) is likely to provoke some people or organizations into unfair application of what was always a legal option for them.

    So, it’ll help with people who want to obey the law but aren’t sure what the law says. It won’t help with the die hard bigots. Definitely the right thing to do anyway.

  4. CJO

    It’s why I was dumbfounded by the California State Supreme Court’s decision not to rule Prop 8 unconstitutional by the state constitution. The Court’s decision seemed to boil down to the contention that the state had no compelling interest in preventing citizens of California from calling same-sex couples second-class citizens as long as their rights were materially identical via state-sanctioned civil unions. But rights are often substantially curtailed in practice when they are merely theoretically protected by a “separate but equal” institution, as we all should have learned decades ago.

  5. 7

    Random thought. If marriage was purely religious, wouldn’t your spouse’s family be called your “in-Gods”? Maybe there’s a clue in the fact that they’re “in-Laws”…

  6. 8

    5000 whining atheists vs the Great Prophet



    one applicant right here…

    get the POINT, Randi….

  7. 10

    How sad.

    The only confusing thing for me is that I understand POAs to be only about financial decisions, not medical decisions. Personal directives are for medical decisions. You do not need a lawyer to draw up a PD, you can do it yourself (at least here in Alberta where I live) and your PD agent can be anyone of your choosing. You sign the consent ahead of time, and the person does not need to be your spouse… they could be your friend.

    I am not sure what is done in cases where these decisions need to be made and there is no PD in place. I am not sure if your spouse has automatic authority to make these decisions, although I’m sure they can probably influence the doctors’ decisions, especially if there is no conflict from other family members. I guess what I’m saying is that I am not sure that a heterosexual marriage even gives you that legal authority. Of course, it could be and likely is different in Nevada.

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