I have claimed that limited domestic partnerships can do more good than harm to advance public acceptance of marriage equality, especially in states that ban same-sex marriage (and legal status for same-sex relationships approximating marriage.) It's a debatable claim, of course: marriage represents far more than a bundle of benefits, protections, rights and duties. Marriage equality supporters are divided over the value of perceived half-measures that appear to many to reinforce second-class citizenship for same-sex couples. At any rate, the claim that I have been making is hardly mine; at a recent forum on the right to marry, Keith Boykin identified its origins. He said that civil rights attorney Evan Wolfson was among the first to identify the long-term, strategic value of promoting quasi-spousal benefits through domestic partnerships. On Boykin's account, Wolfson hoped to move the "default" line forward. This Washington Post article appears to confirm Wolfson's foresight:
"Public support for marriage hasn't caught up to public support for relationship recognition benefits, but it will," said Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, a New-York based discrimination watchdog. "Because at the end of the day, the public sees that marriage and all the benefits associated with it are about . . . what people need to honor their commitment to their spouses and protect them."11/28/09 AP:
In 34 states, same-sex couples lack any form of legal recognition, so - as I have also observed - even limited domestic partnerships matter because these couples will immediately gain from any benefits that limited domestic partnerships confer. And these benefits are hardly to be underestimated:
''When I speak to women from Florida or Wisconsin or Minnesota, they are like, 'I don't care what it's called, I just want to be able to visit my wife in the hospital and cover my children with my health insurance,''' said [Leland] Traiman, who helped pass the nation's first domestic partnership law a quarter-century ago in Berkeley ... Activists like Traiman point to the success of efforts to extend spousal rights and other civil rights protections to same-sex couples, even as the passage of gay marriage bans grab headlines.