A Practical Application of Domestic Partnership Law

I usually don't tell personal stories on this blog, but today marks an exception. It was brought about by a car wreck in which my stepdaughter and her partner were injured.

My stepdaughter is gay. A couple of years ago, she and her partner finally had enough of Texas and moved to the Bay Area. They rented an apartment, and each of them found jobs. They love the Bay Area, their jobs and their life together.

Both "the girls" (as we affectionately call them) got off work for a few days so they could come back to Texas for a visit. I picked them up at the airport earlier this week. On Friday, the girls headed off to have dinner with my stepdaughter's father.

The girls were driving on US 35 when somewhere up ahead, a tire came loose and started bouncing on the freeway. The drivers frantically swerved, when they could, to avoid it. The tire caused a three-stage pileup, five cars, then three cars, then two. The girls were at the end of the three-car pileup.

Both girls were pretty beaten up. They went by ambulance to Baylor Hospital where the doctors found that my stepdaughter had broken her leg. She had surgery and is OK, but it could be a couple of months before she can return to California - and her job.

My stepdaughter might or might not be able to keep her job under the Family and Medical Leave Act – we don't know yet whether her employer has enough employees. The FMLA protects a person's job up to twelve weeks. The employee is unpaid but keeps benefits. If the employer isn't big enough, my stepdaughter will not only lose her job but her medical insurance.

Here's where the good news comes in: A couple of weeks ago, my stepdaughter and her partner "tied the knot" California-style. They registered as domestic partners.

Under California law, companies with group policies that provide benefits to spouses must provide those same benefits to domestic partners. My stepdaughter's partner has a good job - with insurance - so even if my stepdaughter is not protected by the FMLA, she will have medical insurance to protect her until she gets her job back or gets another job.

The issue of "gay rights" has been highly politicized. Some say that gay people want to force "the gay agenda" on the straight community. But being gay isn't a "lifestyle choice." During one tearful conversation while my stepdaughter was coming to terms with her sexual orientation, she asked, "Why would anyone want to be gay if they had a choice? Why would you want people to hate you?" 

But setting aside harsh judgments, the fact is that because of a practical acceptance of gay rights, my stepdaughter will continue to be covered by medical insurance even if she loses her job. Moreover, she will not become a public charge because of her injury or (God forbid) any future injury. Taxpayers take note.