Updates to Oregon’s domestic partnerships

Today Basic Rights Oregon issued a press release on the updates made to our domestic partnership law passed in the Oregon House.

It creates a streamlined process for name changes, clears up confusion between the languages of domestic partnerships in Oregon and civil unions or marriages elsewhere and preserves a long-standing state practice related to taxation on employer-provided partner health care.

You can read BRO’s entire statement below:

The Oregon House today passed legislation adjusting several technical provisions of Oregon’s domestic partnership system.

In 2007, Oregon created domestic partnerships which establish limited protections and responsibilities for caring and committed same-sex couples. These include taking bereavement leave, sharing joint health insurance, and inheriting the estate of a spouse.

“Oregon’s domestic partnership system creates a patchwork of protections for committed same-sex couples,” said Jeana Frazzini, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon. “The Legislature is doing everything in its power to strengthen this patchwork under the confines of Measure 36. But ultimately, only marriage equality will ensure that same-sex couples are able to care for each other in times of need.”

House Bill 2839 has three provisions. The first creates a uniform and streamlined process for domestic partners seeking a name change, updating this process to reflect changes made for married couples in 2007. The second provision eliminates unintended consequences and clears up confusion for same-sex couples whose relationships are recognized as civil unions or marriages in other states. Finally, the legislation preserves a long-standing state practice related to taxation on employer-provided partner health care.

The bill passed the Oregon House by a vote of 51 to 8 and moves to the state Senate for consideration.

Oregon’s domestic partnership system has come under scrutiny from gay rights activists in the past week. They cite the experience this month of a gay man who was kicked out of the hospital room of his sick partner at OHSU. While the law allows registered domestic partners to visit one another in the hospital and make medical decisions, an uninformed nurse told the gay man he had to leave his partners’ bedside, just as end of life decisions came under discussion.

Advocates say that this experience indicates that Oregon’s domestic partnership law is falling short of its promise.

Frazzini added, “Can you imagine a nurse at our state’s premier teaching hospital telling a woman that she wasn’t allowed to visit her husband’s hospital room when he was on his death bed? This couple’s experience demonstrates all too well that Oregon’s domestic partnership systems falls far short of its promise. Without the honor and respect that comes with marriage, caring and committed couples have a long way to go before they experience equality.”

The Oregon state constitution was amended in 2004 to exclude gay couples from the freedom to marry. Currently four states – Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Iowa – allow gay couples to marry, while several other states have some form of relationship recognition for gay partners.

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