Marriage versus Partnership

Posted 6 February 2009 by

Let’s take a detour to California for a moment.


“Fidelity”: Don’t Divorce… from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

I do not know anything about the California state constitution. So, I have no clue on whether the California Supreme Court may or should overturn Proposition 8.

At the same time, I remember something from from my required junior high, senior high, and college coursework on the Missouri and US constitutions. It is the concept of “ex post facto.” It seems to me that any court should tread lightly on nullifying something that was legal when it happened.

Be careful for what you wish: you may get it and set a legal precedence that will come back to bite you.

Now, back to Washington.

When it comes to gay marriage, I’ll repeat what I’ve always said when people ask why my partner and I haven’t registered our partnership or have gone to British Columbia to be married:

We have something much more lasting than a marriage. We have a mortgage.

With recent problems in the banking world, I need to emphasize how true this is. Our mortgage has outlasted the financial institution that gave us our loan. We now owe money to Chase.

So, in the realm of the important things in the world, I don’t need the State of Washington to approve my commitment to my partner. I would rather have guaranteed health insurance first, thank-you-very-much.

Actually, I can think of many things personal and public that would be better served at the moment:

  • Homelessness
  • Health care access
  • Jobs
  • Education
  • Transportation
  • Global warming

I would rather my legislature spend their opportunity cost on these issues before worrying about marriage rights. Or, before changing Washington’s domestic partner registration law more into something like marriage.

Did anyone stop to consider that there is a need for domestic partnership (something that isn’t marriage)? And, Washington’s domestic partnership law discriminates on account of age? (Opposite gender couples may register only if senior citizens.)

There are opposite-gender couples right now that have reasons not to get married. It is more than senior citizens afraid of losing Social Security benefits. One of those reasons is community property for married couples.

Why is community property a problem? Let me give you one example from last week.

“Someone” ran into our car over a year ago when my partner was driving it. A week earlier to that accident, “someone” was involved in another accident with a third driver. In this case, the third driver hit “someone.”

Surprise! The insurance companies are not playing well together.

Last week “someone” filed a lawsuit claiming medical damages against my partner and the third driver. As part of this process, a summons was issued for “Jane Doe [partner's last name].” Because of Washington’s community property law, “someone” has the right to file the lawsuit and collect against the spouse.

If I had been married to my partner, my personal assets would be at risk today.

Instead, I get to tease my partner about “who is this Jane Doe person?”

I believe the marriage laws need to change (and not only to allow same-gender people to marry). I believe marriage laws will change one day. Meanwhile, today I wish the legislature would spend time on the most serious problems first.

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