Reform Jewish Movement Applauds Senate for Passing Domestic Partnership Benefits; Urges Governors to Do the Same
"Recognizing both the legitimacy and the reality of gay and lesbian relationships is, we believe, a statement in favor of family values. Providing increased access to health care and expanded family benefits should serve as a model for our nation's communities."
Contact: Lauren Schumer or Daniel Kaufman 202-387-2800
WASHINGTON, November 8, 2001- The Reform Jewish Movement applauds the Senatefor supporting domestic partner benefits in the District of Columbia. By passing the District of Columbia Appropriations Bill (S. 1543), the Senate ended a nine-year ban on local funding for domestic partner benefits.
The removal of the ban allows the District of Columbia to enact its Health Care Benefits Expansion Act, passed by the City Council in 1992. The Act requires all health care facilities to grant visitation rights to domestic partners and allows DC government employees the right to purchase health insurance for their domestic partners. Additionally, the removal of the ban will allow DC government employees to take sick leave to care for a domestic partner or bereavement leave to make funeral arrangements for a domestic partner.
Following this momentous decision, the Reform Movement sent a letter today to state governors encouraging them to follow the lead of California Governor Gray Davis and publicly support domestic partnership benefits for gays and lesbians.
The text of the letter follows:
On behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), whose membership exceeds 1800 rabbis, and the Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ), whose membership exceeds 100,000 Reform Jewish women, we write urging you to publicly support the expansion of domestic partnership benefits for gay and lesbian couples.
On October 14, California Governor Gray Davis signed A.B. 25, landmark legislation that allows domestic partners to make medical decisions in hospitals, sue for wrongful death, use sick leave to care for an ill partner or the child of a domestic partner, administer a partner's estate, and relocate with a domestic partner without losing unemployment benefits. Additionally, the law exempts partners from
state income tax for the health benefits provided to domestic partners and ensures the continuation of health benefits for surviving partners of government employees and retirees. The law also protects domestic partners under second-parent adoption law, guaranteeing domestic partners the right to adopt a partner's child as a stepparent.
Recognizing both the legitimacy and the reality of gay and lesbian relationships is, we believe, a statement in favor of family values. Providing increased access to health care and expanded family benefits, such as those guaranteed in A.B. 25, should serve as a model for our nation's communities.
Now is the time to act. Your leadership is necessary to break a legal barrier that stands in the way of equality for all Americans. By publicly supporting domestic partnership benefits, you will provide a powerful voice to the campaign to strengthen American families.
In a November, 2000 resolution, the Commission on Social Action, a joint instrumentality of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, called upon state governments to "adopt legislation that will afford all legal protections currently available to married couples to committed lesbian and gay domestic partners." In 1997, the Women of Reform Judaism passed a resolution urging the "support of federal, state, provincial and local legislation that will require spousal benefits for lesbian and gay individuals in committed relationships."
Jewish tradition teaches us that we are all created in the image of God (b'tselem Elohim). Each of us is uniquely capable of working to repair the world, and thus inherently valuable. It is in this spirit that as a nation, we celebrate our diversity and insist on equality for all. Especially in these troubled times, equality, along with our other constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, must reign supreme if we are to remain united and strong.
Rabbi David Saperstein
Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Judge David S. Davidson
Chairman, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism