January 28, 2007 in Opinion

Our View: Skewing prejudice

The Spokesman-Review
 

It would be nice if people who tossed around the term “reverse discrimination” were worried about prejudice to begin with.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case with some critics of a Washington state bill that would grant same-sex couples some of the same rights and benefits that are bestowed upon couples with a marriage certificate.

Among other things, the bill would grant members of same-sex couples hospital visitation rights and allow them to make decisions about organ donations and funerals.

To qualify, couples would have to sign up on a state registry and prove that they live together and that both members are at least 18 years old.

The bill would also apply to heterosexual couples with one member who is at least 62. Many older couples don’t marry because it could cost them some or all of certain pension and Social Security benefits.

The legislation has provided a shallow “aha!” moment for opponents who note that it should also apply to other caregivers, such as grandparents and siblings.

“This bill grants to domestic partners a package of rights it fails to grant to many other kinds of relationships,” said Bishop Joseph Tyson, of the Washington State Catholic Conference.

Hence, the cry of “reverse discrimination.” Of course, in the case of same-sex couples, this bill would not be necessary if the government didn’t discriminate in the first place when it came to who may marry whom.

The reality is that government grants special rights to those who have a marriage certificate. A wife can visit a hospitalized husband with no questions asked. She can make decisions related to medical procedures, organ donations, autopsies and funerals. An unmarried partner cannot.

Lawmakers learned in testimony on Thursday that a woman who recently lost her partner of 10 years wasn’t allowed to visit her in the hospital until a family member granted approval. Even then, she ran into legal roadblocks when it came to planning a funeral and donating retinas.

Allowing same-sex couples to marry would eliminate the need for a domestic partnership bill (though problems for elderly couples would continue).

But those who cry “reverse discrimination” want no part of that. In fact, they fear this bill will signal the demise of their preferred form of favoritism.

A companion bill calls for the legalization of same-sex marriage. It’s doubtful it can pass at this time, but perhaps a domestic partnership law would educate the public on the discriminating effects of our marriage laws.


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