We are still discussing the basics of a domestic partnership in Minneapolis. In our last post, we talked about who can enter into a domestic partnership and what the registration process is.
In many ways, the domestic partnership ordinance was an important first step toward marriage equality. Without the option of marriage, a same-sex couple could register as domestic partners and reap a handful of the benefits of marriage.
At the same time, proponents of same-sex marriage were able to use domestic partnership laws as another example of discrimination against LGBT couples. Opposite-sex couples may also register as domestic partners, but there is a difference: They have the choice. For same-sex couples, it was the only way to gain the rights that come with the status.
The city ordinance provides a telling detail about the rights of domestic partners. The city has taken extra care to guarantee domestic partners access to one another in health care facilities (if visitors are allowed and if the partner is not specifically barred from visiting). The city extends the same privilege to other family members, including children of a domestic partner and domestic partners of a parent or spouse of the patient.
The city does not interfere with the contract between a domestic partner and his or her employer. That means that benefits are only available to a partner if the employer specifically allows it. Domestic partners are not protected by the city's or the state's civil rights laws. There is one exception: If a domestic partner passes away, the deceased's employer must continue any benefits for 45 days; if the employer has specifically prohibited the continuation of benefits, though, the partner is out of luck.
Ending a domestic partnership is not as complicated as a divorce. We'll talk more about that next time.
Source: Minneapolis, Minnesota, Code of Ordinances, Title 7 - Civil Rights, Chapter 142. Civil Rights And Domestic Partnerships