Bidding “good riddance” to a nine-year federal blockade, People For the American Way joins in celebrating the implementation of the District of Columbia’s domestic partnership law. The District passed the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992, to, among other things, extend health care benefits to domestic partners of municipal employees, but the law could not take effect because Congress repeatedly prohibited the city from spending its own money to implement it. The District has no voting member in Congress, and its budget is ultimately controlled by the federal legislature.
Despite attempts by right-wing members of Congress to keep the prohibition intact, the blockade ended on Dec. 21, 2001, when President George W. Bush signed the District’s annual federal appropriation, ignoring the Religious Right’s demand for a veto. Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., had successfully amended the spending bill to end the blockade, while Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., failed in an attempt to reinstate the ban.
Upon implementation, D.C.’s domestic partnership law will:
Allow gay men and lesbians, among others, to register a domestic partnership with the mayor’s office;
Allow employees of the D.C. government to take sick leave to care for a domestic partner or bereavement leave in the event of a partner’s death;
Allow employees of the D.C. government to purchase health care insurance for a domestic partner; and,
Require all health care facilities in the city to allow a patient’s registered domestic partner to visit the patient.
“Implementing the domestic partnership law is a real victory for self-representation in the District of Columbia and an important step toward equality for gay Washingtonians,” said PFAW President Ralph G. Neas. “D.C. voters elected a fair-minded City Council and mayor, and Congress thwarted the will of the people for almost a decade. But while we celebrate this victory, let us not forget that this law is still only a limited step toward full equality. We hope that Congress will not stand in the way of future progress.”
Neas said the implementation of the law is due to years of hard work by local gay and lesbian community leaders, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and advocacy organizations including People For the American Way.
PFAW, along with local and national organizations committed to equal rights for gays and lesbians, is sponsoring tonight’s celebration of the law’s implementation at the John A. Wilson Building.