LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Referendum 71 will bring collateral damage
September 21, 2009 · Updated 12:46 PM
To the editor:
In the waging of war, we call it collateral damage. In the politics of plebiscites we call it the law of unintended consequences.
This November, proponents of Referendum 71 will ask voters to reject the latest expansion of the state’s domestic partnership law that gives registered partners certain civil and human rights common to traditionally married couples.
Many supporters of Referendum 71 who oppose the domestic partnership law say they see that law as a danger to marriage. Many efforts at repeal are unabashedly aimed at depriving our gay and lesbian friends, our neighbors and our relatives equal protection under the law — and their dignity as human beings.
But here is where the collateral damage will be done by this misguided effort by those seeking to deny equal protection to some: Referendum 71 would also deny all unmarried senior citizens (age 62 or older, and their younger life-partners), whatever their sexual preferences — straight or gay — these same domestic partnership rights.
Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
That condition seems to apply to Referendum 71. Many of my best friends, my neighbors and my relatives are gay and live in dedicated domestic partnerships.
I want all of them to have the same rights as I and my wife share as traditionally married persons.
It’s also true that many of us know at least one loving, dedicated straight senior couple living in a domestic partnership, without being married, for any number of good reasons, including financial survival. They also deserve equal protection under the law.
Voting for Referendum 71 means keeping someone you know, maybe your elderly sister, from visiting the love of her life in the hospital, keeping your oldest friend from using sick leave to care for his late-life partner, keeping your grandmother from receiving her injured domestic partner’s wages and similar benefits commonly available to spouses.
This misguided attempt to roll back equal protection under the law is an injustice, and we should reject it in November.