The U.S. Department of State announced recently that the Same-sex Domestic Partner benefit program is moving closer to the chopping block. The department has toyed with the idea, it seems, since the Supreme Court's decision in U.S. v. Windsor struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act. The program allows domestic partners to obtain diplomatic passports, gives them access to medical facilities in foreign outposts and covers expenses to visit family members or employees in an emergency.
The question is both rhetorical and practical. As more and more states legalize same-sex marriage, pundits are questioning whether domestic partnerships have become obsolete. Domestic partnerships were never a "marriage alternative," at least to same-sex marriage advocates: Most states limited the benefits of domestic partnerships to the right to be recognized as next-of-kin in a health care emergency.
We are talking about a program introduced this month by the Minnesota Department of Human Services: Northstar Care for Children. The department hopes that the program's streamlined processes and revamped benefits will encourage more foster parents to adopt the children in their care.
A friend of ours faced a dilemma a couple of years ago. She had taken in her grandson when it became clear that her daughter could no longer care for him. Our friend and her husband knew they would have a little trouble taking on the added expense of the 18-month-old, so they contacted the social services department in Carver County to see if they could be the boy's foster parents.