Domestic partnerships

Government has no business regulating relationships between consenting adults. The institution of marriage would be best left to churches and secular organizations that have religious or tradition-based interests in administering such contracts.

Unfortunately, government is very much in the business of regulating relationships — especially marriage. Counties assess fees, issue licenses and grant specific rights, privileges and protections accordingly. And voters in 2002 amended the Nevada Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

The Senate on Tuesday passed a domestic partnership bill sponsored by David Parks, D-Las Vegas, that would extend the legal protections enjoyed by married couples to committed adults who choose not to wed. Senate Bill 283 would give unmarried gay and heterosexual couples the ability to make medical and funeral decisions for each other; allow visits to one another in hospitals, jails and prisons; grant inheritance rights through wills and trusts and allow them to control their respective estates; and accord the same parenting rights as married couples.

Lest any couples take this step in haste, partners also would be subject to community property laws, have mutual responsibility for debts incurred during the partnership and retain the right to seek alimony if the relationship ends.

The bill would require the secretary of state’s office to issue certificates for domestic partnerships and to register the creation and termination of the relationships.

The legislation already is creating quite a stir among social conservatives, who see it as an attempt to bypass the constitutional amendment backed by voters. But SB283 covers both heterosexual and same-sex relationships.

“It is hard to fathom why this bill is at all controversial,” said Gary Peck, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. “All it would do is grant recognition to domestic partners who deserve it, and make it easier for them to make responsible decisions and to live life with greater dignity.”

And it makes no requirement that governments offer taxpayer-subsidized health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of public employees. Those decisions would be left to the boards that oversee such plans.

SB283 is a compassionate solution for the pain and humiliation countless partners have endured when their loved ones have fallen ill or died, and they’ve been denied a voice in the other’s health, welfare and affairs.

The bill is headed to the Assembly, where it is expected to have landslide support. Gov. Jim Gibbons has promised to veto SB283. Sen. Parks needs to find two more votes in the upper chamber to override that veto. We hope he succeeds.

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