After a lively debate that included alternate charges of "promoting the radical homosexual agenda" and being "homophobic," the Senate passed a bill yesterday to give medical decision-making rights to all unmarried couples who sign onto a domestic registry.This is seriously smart equality politics. It focuses on basic family rights that will benefit both straight and gay couples and serves to highlight that a patchwork of wills/durable power of attorney/advanced medical directives are not equal to all the rights covered by marriage/civil unions/domestic partnerships. Plus it makes the people who oppose it look like assholes who want to deny non-married couples basic care and self-determination in their own medical treatment. It's not a very compassionate stance to take, it's pretty cruel really. One has to be pretty anti-gay to want to stop someone from having their partner by their side during a medical emergency.
The 31-16 vote came after two days of heated debate and marks a significant step toward the bill becoming law.
The House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed a similar bill last year and passage is expected again in that chamber. The Senate's wide margin of approval yesterday was seen as a victory for the gay and lesbian rights community, which was championing the bill as a top priority this year.
"I guess if wanting to be in the hospital room with your loved one at a time of illness is part of the radical homosexual agenda, then we're guilty as charged," said Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland, a statewide gay rights advocacy group.
The Maryland Catholic Conference lobbied against the bill, calling it a step down the road to state-sanctioned gay marriage.
Sen. Alex X. Mooney, a Republican from Frederick and Washington counties, read a letter from the Catholic Conference on the floor.
"We all know what this bill is really about," said Mooney. "It's really about promoting the radical homosexual agenda.
"One day we're going to wake up like Massachusetts perhaps and wonder, 'Gee how did we get to the point where we have same-sex marriages in Maryland?'" he said.
But Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, a Prince George's County Democrat, countered that opposition to the bill was really about "a homophobic problem." "We're in the 21st century, ladies and gentlemen," said Pinsky.
In the 2004 Maryland General Assembly Session, Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Rowe stated "much of what is in the bill cannot be achieved by use of an advanced directive." In fact, there are 11 rights included in the Medical Decision Making Act, and at least 7 of those rights cannot be achieved either through power of attorney, advance directive, or will.It's a good sign when progress such as this goes largely unnoticed-- especially if it soon becomes the law of Mary's Land.
1. The right to be treated as an immediate family member for purposes of hospital visitation
2. The right to inspect a record to permit the disinterment or reinterment of their deceased partners body
3. The right to petition a court to enjoin certain actions of certain treating health providers.
4. The rights to accompany a partner while being transported from one health care facility to another.
5. The right to share a room with a partner in nursing homes and other related facilities.
6. The right to private visits with a partner in a nursing home.
7. The designation of being a person of "interest" in the property of a burial site.
I'd really like to see a lot more legislation like this, it's what I like to think of as "none-of-your-business" bills. It's strictly our business if my partner and I register for these rights-- it has no impact beyond us, it is nobody's business but our own. Anyone would would lobby to prevent us from having these rights is a heartless, meddling bastard. Get out of our bedrooms, out of our lives! You're nothing but a bunch of damned busybodies, I tell ya.