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Congressman to target benefits for domestic partners in D.C.

WASHINGTON (BP)–A Republican congressman is looking at ways to overturn a law that grants marriage benefits to the domestic partners of District of Columbia employees, a measure that conservatives said was voted on soon after Sept. 11 by lawmakers unaware of provisions in the bill that undermine traditional families, CNSNews.com reported July 15.

Rep. David Vitter, R.-La., “is very much against the D.C. partnership provision and would like to see it overturned and is looking into ways to do that,” said Tonya Newman, a spokeswoman for Vitter.

Vitter, a member of the D.C. subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee and chairman of a subcommittee for the House Republican Policy Committee, is looking at “feasible legislative strategies” to overturn the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992, which went into effect during the week of July 8, Newman said.

The law, approved by the D.C. City Council in June 1992, establishes a system of registration for unmarried, cohabitating couples — including same sex couples — that would give them benefits normally extended only to married couples.

Since 1992, Congress has prohibited the District of Columbia from using federal funds to implement the act. But in September, the House allowed the act to become law when it rejected an amendment to the D.C. Appropriations Act that had the effect of reestablishing the ban on facilitating partner benefits in the District.

The defeat preserved a change in the D.C. bill by Rep. Jim Kolbe, R.-Ariz., for the federal government to support and facilitate marital benefits for domestic partners and other relationships in the District.

Peter LaBarbera, a senior policy analyst for the Culture and Family Institute, said it was “unfortunate that this major advance occurred under the Bush administration.

“It should have been stopped,” LaBarbera said, “but it definitely was a case of the gay lobby taking advantage of a national tragedy to sneak through controversial legislation, and we’re hoping it will be overturned.”

Among other benefits, the law allows unmarried people 18 and older who share a permanent residence to register as domestic partners. The law also gives domestic partners the right to have final say over funeral procedures and to take annual or unpaid leave to take care of or to attend the funeral of the domestic partner.

The Vital Records Division in the D.C. Department of Health will be in charge of running the domestic partner registration program. Couples who provide documentation that they satisfy the requirements for registration and pay a $45 fee should receive their certificates within 10 days, officials said.

Currently eight states, 130 municipalities, 168 Fortune 500 companies, 4,000 private employers and 167 colleges and universities offer domestic partner benefits to their employees, according to CNSNews.com.
Morahan is a senior staff writer with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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  • Lawrence Morahan