Nevada Domestic Partner Law Answers – Don’t Get Me Started!

 

So if you read yesterday’s blog you know that I was more than a little confused about the whole Domestic Partner law going into effect on October 1, 2009 here in Nevada. (Read it here http://hubpages.com/hub/What-The-Hell-IS-A-Domestic-Partnership-Maybe-Us-Gays-Arent-Doing-Our-Part) The good news is that not only did I know who to ask about it, they answered. And so it would come to pass that the lovely Bruce from GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders) sent me the following response. Although it’s a little out of his jurisdiction (shall we say) I believe him! Nevada Domestic Partner law answers – Don’t Get Me Started!

Thank you for contacting GLAD.  Let me say from the outset that I am not an attorney and GLAD only serves the six New England states, but given those caveats here is some information that I think is accurate.  Our sister organization that serves Nevada is Lambda Legal, and I would encourage you to contact them for details about the Nevada domestic partnership law.  The number for Lambda Legal’s western office is 213-382-7600.  I have copied below the pertinent sections from what I think was the final version of the Nevada domestic partnership bill SB283.  According to the language of this bill, same-sex couples in a domestic partnership in Nevada get extended ALL the rights, protections, benefits, obligations and duties that the state of Nevada gives to different-sex married couples.  The one exception is section 8 of the law which says that companies do not have to extend health benefits to domestic partners, although it also says that they are free to do so if they wish. 

 

The word domestic partner is used in numerous different ways.  In terms of state sponsored domestic partnership registries, some states like Maine, Wisconsin, Hawaii and the District of Columbia have domestic partnerships that only offer a few of the state benefits that married couples enjoy.  However, there are some states like California, Oregon, Washington and your state of Nevada that offer to domestic partners all the rights, protections and obligations that apply to married couples under STATE law (with perhaps one or two exceptions like the insurance exception in Nevada).  There are also four states that offer civil unions—New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut—and civil unions offer to same-sex couples all the rights and obligations that are extended by state law to married couples in that state.  It is interesting to note, however, that CT, VT and NH are doing away with civil unions and moving to marriage during the next few months, and New Jersey is also considering doing the same—so there must be a difference between civil unions/domestic partnerships and marriageAnd there is.  One big difference between domestic partnership and civil unions compared to marriage is that it is a second-class relationship.  Marriage has always been the gold standard for relationships, and for a state to offer the benefits but not the name sends a strong message that our relationships are less than, even though they provide us with the same state benefits.

 

At this point in time, no same-sex couples whether in a marriage, civil union or domestic partnership are able to access the 1138 FEDERAL benefits that apply to different-sex married couples because of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which states that for all federal purposes marriage is only between a man and a woman.  One huge difference though between married same-sex couples and civil union or domestic partnership couples, is that ONLY married same-sex couples have the legal standing to challenge DOMA and go after those federal benefits.  GLAD has filed a federal suit to challenge the constitutionality of DOMA.  If we win that suit, or if Congress repeals the DOMA law (which Obama has said he is committed to doing), then married same-sex couples will have access to all the federal benefits that different-sex married couples receive, but same-sex couples in civil unions and domestic partnerships will not—and the federal benefits are huge.  So this is another major difference between marriage and domestic partnerships.

 

The move by Nevada seems to be a good one though.  Except for the insurance issue, you should be treated by the State of Nevada the same way a different-sex married couple is.  Once the people of Nevada see that extending the benefits and obligations of marriage to same-sex couples does no harm to the marriages of different-sex couples, Nevada may be in a position in a few years to move to marriage like CT, VT and NH are doing.  Our experience in MA is that it takes time for the public to understand and support the marriages of same-sex couples, but in time they do.  A few years after we obtained marriage rights in MA, there was an attempt to take them away like just happened in CA with Prop 8, by passing a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.  Unlike CA, MA has a more complicated process for amending its constitution—you have to get approval for the amendment twice in the legislature.  On the first round in the legislature we lost the vote.  On the second round we needed to have over 75% of the legislators on our side to prevent the constitutional amendment from going to a vote of the people.  Amazingly we did get over 75% of the legislature to stop the amendment from going to a vote by the people—an unbelievable accomplishment.  Personally, I think that even if it had gone to a vote of the people we would have won, because now in MA same-sex marriage is no longer a political issue.

 

You might want to contact organizations like Lambda Legal http://www.lambdalegal.org or Equality Nevadahttp://www.eqnv.org or the Human Rights Campaign http://www.hrc.org to find ways to advocate for marriage equality in Nevada.  A this point in time there are only 11 states that offer same-sex couples essentially all the state benefits that different-sex married couples receive—

6 marriage states (MA, CT, IA, VT, NH and hopefully ME—it is dependent on a November voter referendum), 1 civil union state (NJ—I left out CT, VT and NH because they will soon end civil unions and move to just marriage) and 4 states that have domestic partnerships that offer all (or almost all) of the benefits a different-sex married couple receives (CA, OR, WA and NV).  Best wishes and hopefully in the next few years NV will move from domestic partnerships to marriage and the federal DOMA will be eliminated so that married same-sex couples will receive the 1138 federal benefits of marriage.  Best wishes!  

 

Here are the benefits and obligations under Nevada’s Domestic Partnership Law SB283—you can see the entire law at http://www.leg.state.nv.us/75th2009/Bills/SB/SB283_EN.pdf .

 

Sec. 7. 1. Except as otherwise provided in section 8 of this

act:

(a) Domestic partners have the same rights, protections and

benefits, and are subject to the same responsibilities, obligations

and duties under law, whether derived from statutes,

administrative regulations, court rules, government policies,

common law or any other provisions or sources of law, as are

granted to and imposed upon spouses.

(b) Former domestic partners have the same rights, protections

and benefits, and are subject to the same responsibilities,

obligations and duties under law, whether derived from statutes,

administrative regulations, court rules, government policies,

common law or any other provisions or sources of law, as are

granted to and imposed upon former spouses.

(c) A surviving domestic partner, following the death of the

other partner, has the same rights, protections and benefits, and is

subject to the same responsibilities, obligations and duties under

law, whether derived from statutes, administrative regulations,

court rules, government policies, common law or any other

provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon a

widow or a widower.

(d) The rights and obligations of domestic partners with

respect to a child of either of them are the same as those of

spouses. The rights and obligations of former or surviving

domestic partners with respect to a child of either of them are the

same as those of former or surviving spouses.

(e) To the extent that provisions of Nevada law adopt, refer to

or rely upon provisions of federal law in a way that otherwise

would cause domestic partners to be treated differently from

spouses, domestic partners must be treated by Nevada law as if

federal law recognized a domestic partnership in the same manner

as Nevada law.

(f) Domestic partners have the same right to

nondiscriminatory treatment as that provided to spouses.

(g) A public agency in this State shall not discriminate against

any person or couple on the basis or ground that the person is a

domestic partner rather than a spouse or that the couple are

domestic partners rather than spouses.

(h) The provisions of this chapter do not preclude a public

agency from exercising its regulatory authority to carry out laws

providing rights to, or imposing responsibilities upon, domestic

partners.

(i) Where necessary to protect the rights of domestic partners

pursuant to this chapter, gender-specific terms referring to

spouses must be construed to include domestic partners.

(j) For the purposes of the statutes, administrative regulations,

court rules, government policies, common law and any other

provision or source of law governing the rights, protections and

benefits, and the responsibilities, obligations and duties of

domestic partners in this State, as effectuated by the provisions of

this chapter, with respect to:

(1) Community property;

(2) Mutual responsibility for debts to third parties;

(3) The right in particular circumstances of either partner

to seek financial support from the other following the dissolution

of the partnership; and

(4) Other rights and duties as between the partners

concerning ownership of property,

_ any reference to the date of a marriage shall be deemed to refer

to the date of registration of the domestic partnership.

2. As used in this section, “public agency” means an agency,

bureau, board, commission, department or division of the State of

Nevada or a political subdivision of the State of Nevada.

Sec. 8. 1. The provisions of this chapter do not require a

public or private employer in this State to provide health care

benefits to or for the domestic partner of an officer or employee.

2. Subsection 1 does not prohibit any public or private

employer from voluntarily providing health care benefits to or for

the domestic partner of an officer or employee upon such terms

and conditions as the affected parties may deem appropriate.

Read More Scott @ www.somelikeitscott.com

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Comments 2 comments

Jenny 23 months ago

What's it take to become a sublime exuenpdor of prose like yourself?


Barbi 23 months ago

Good to find an expert who knows what he's takling about!

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