KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio produced an excellent piece featuring the straight senior-citizen couple Steve Doty & Linda Dunbar.  Steve & Linda tell us why they got a domestic partnership, and why it is so important to them that Washington votes “approved” on Referendum 71.  Click here to stream the audio.  The transcript is below.  After you listen, you may be interested in downloading the flier Why do seniors need the protection of domestic partnerships?, provided by Washington Families Standing Together.  Thoughts from our opponents on seniors and domestic partnerships, after the fold.

Referendum 71 Seniors

10/02/2009

Steve Doty and Linda Dunbar are a senior-citizen couple. They live in North Seattle and they’ve been together a long time. They’ve seen each other through her breast cancer and his Parkinson’s Disease. But they’re not married. Steve and Linda would be directly affected by Referendum 71. It’s a measure that’s going to be on the Washington state ballot November 3.

Dunbar: “Yeah, this is for better or worse, sickness and health.”

Reporter: “Did you guys ever think about getting married?”

Dunbar: “I don’t think so. One of the things that happened was that I was baptized in the Roman Catholic church. And I’ve been divorced. I could not receive sacrament if I married again. And I guess living in sin – quote, unquote – is different than that.”

In the last legislative session, lawmakers passed a new set of expanded rights for domestic partners. It’s nicknamed the “Everything but Marriage” law. And it’s controversial because it extends rights to gay couples – as though they were married. But it also affects older heterosexual couples if one of them is over age 62.

Linda and Steve’s dog, Schuster, runs back and forth between them as they sit in their modest apartment. They recently got rid of their couch to give Steve more room to maneuver with his walker. Linda jokes that her partner can be a handful.

Dunbar: “He’s very difficult – no, I’m kidding. We’ve been together since 1991. We just thought that it would be a really good thing if we made a commitment to each other. And not just move in and have a fling. This is the real deal.”

Steve and Linda have registered their domestic partnership with the state. They say getting married would hurt them financially. Older couples who marry can lose some of their social security benefits, or pensions.

Bill Dorn talks to couples like Steve and Linda all the time. He’s with Senior Services of King County. The agency helps seniors understand their rights. He finds many are reluctant to talk about their unmarried status.

Dorn: “There are a lot of seniors who find themselves choosing to be a couple, and not marry because of those financial concerns. And they come from a generation, where that’s not socially acceptable.”

Anne Levinson chairs the Approve 71 campaign to uphold the state’s domestic partner rights. She says many seniors don’t realize hospitals could keep them from a loved-one’s bedside. Or from claiming a body and making funeral arrangements if their partner dies.

Levinson: “I think with seniors, and with the rest of us … it often takes a crisis for us to realize that without those legal protections, we are often left in not only a financially tenuous position but in terms of being able to make decisions for our loved ones, or have access to care. The tragedies we’ve seen over and over again when an emergency strikes and people do not have the protections of domestic partnership laws – it’s sad.”

Opponents to Referendum 71 didn’t return numerous phone calls. The group Protect Marriage Washington is against Referendum 71. Its Website says expanding domestic partnership rights isn’t necessary because seniors and others can obtain many of those same protections through wills and contracts.

Steve and Linda say they want their relationship respected as though they were married. Linda once wound up in the emergency room with a head injury. But doctors wouldn’t tell Steve what was happening because they weren’t married and weren’t yet registered partners. They don’t want to lose the rights they now have.

Dunbar: “I mean I have to be realistic about our age, and I think making those life decisions that mean so much. I don’t want him left out, and I fear that could happen – that he wouldn’t be able to see me, or that I would be at the mercy of a hospital somewhere where, where I can’t make a decision for myself.”

Voting* on Referendum 71 can be tricky. A “yes” vote would leave intact the expanded rights for domestic partners already approved by the Legislature.

A “no” vote would repeal those rights.

I’m Carol Smith, KUOW News.

And it’s as simple as that.  Referendum 71 is about protecting ALL Washington families fairly and equally under the law.  And making it possible for loving partners to care for each other in times of crisis.  Despite what “reject” advocate Larry Stickney says, it is impossible to get real protections with just wills and powers of attorney.  But he’s perfectly welcome to try that route himself, if he thinks it’s all that.

*Technical note: the ballot language actually asks voters whether the domestic partnership law should be “approved” or “rejected”.I found it interesting that Protect Marriage Washington refused to be interviewed for the story.  I think they know that their campaign to smear senior domestic partners won’t play well to a wider audience.  Here’s a little sample of their campaign of disrespect towards senior domestic partnerships.  This email was sent by Joseph Backholm from the Family Policy Institute of Washington on September 8, 2009.  I have no idea why it’s dated Feb. 7th.  FPIW is a major actor in the PMW confederation.  Emphasis mine.

Greetings!

Monday Minute for February 7, 2009 (Holiday Edition)

Thoughts from the Executive Director

Can Seniors Be Bribed?

It looks like Referendum 71, the petition that would allow Washington to vote on the controversial “everything but marriage” bill, will be on the ballot this fall.  As a result, Washington will vote on whether or not they believe there is a meaningful difference between heterosexual and homosexual relationships.  

In the course of this debate, we are also going to learn something about Washington’s senior citizens.  Specifically, we will learn whether or not they can be bought.  And make no mistake about it, an offer has been made.

The bill that grants same-sex domestic partners benefits equivalent to married couples also extends these rights to heterosexual domestic partners over the age of 62.  This would allow them to receive marriage benefits without having to forfeit their federal benefits that would be lost if they married and combine incomes.

One need not be a great political mind to realize that inclusion of seniors is purely political.  There is no crisis of seniors begging for domestic partner benefits; only 500 heterosexual senior couples have registered since the opportunity was created in 2006. However, it does allow same-sex marriage advocates to claim that those who vote against the redefinition of marriage are also voting against grandma. Who in good conscience can do that?

Hopefully, lots of people can.

In fact, seniors should be leading the charge.  More than anyone, they should appreciate the need to look beyond the end of your nose when creating public policy.  

Seniors have more reservations than any other demographic when it comes to homosexual marriage. According to a recent Washington Poll, seniors are the least likely age bracket to support same-sex partnerships or homosexual marriage. They are also the most likely to oppose any form of legal recognition.  

For my money, seniors as a group should “get it” more than the rest of us.  In their lifetime, culture has shifted from appreciating the value of the nuclear family to a culture with no-fault divorce that tries to pretend there is no difference between moms and dads. They have seen the shift from a culture that valued sexual restraint to a society that believes sex and marriage exist solely for the purpose of validating the individuals involved.  They have also seen the consequences of this change.  

Seniors should call the bluff of those offering this bribe by rejecting Referendum 71. Then, next session, ask those who currently care so much about the plight of seniors if they will pass another bill that protects seniors in this way without “everything but marriage” for same-sex couples.  That is the moment at which we discover how sincere the alleged concern for seniors is.

Of course there are going to be seniors in Washington who believe homosexual marriage is the nice thing to do and care very little about the consequences.  To be sure, they have the right to vote that way.  But for those who have not been swept away by the tyranny of tolerance, I trust they will recognize this effort to buy them.  

While voting to give yourself more of other people’s money is always tempting, it is my hope that this attempt will be more insulting than effective.    

Forward this to a senior in your life and keep the conversation going.

Since when is providing needed protections to senior citizens “buying” them?  Backholme’s wish that “seniors should be leading the charge” to undermine their own security is mind boggling.  Isn’t this guy part of the same crowd decrying imaginary death panels for oldsters?  Yet here he advocates for pulling the rug out from under seniors, and accuses them of collecting “other people’s money” when they try to preserve hard-earned retirement benefits rightfully due them.  As for the “only 500” couples, I think Joseph needs to review his Scripture.

Matthew 25:31-46 The Sheep and the Goats

31″When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34″Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

41″Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44″They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45″He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46″Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

I do hope that Backholm follows his own advice and forwards his dreadfully insulting email to his own grandparents so that they can box his ears.

Interestingly, Backholme’s email isn’t posted to the FPIW page dedicated to this series of Backholme’s emails.  Maybe it has something to do with the the immediate jeers it won from the editorial board of Federal Way Mirror:

Jeers to the Family Policy Institute of Washington for inflicting its dogma of intolerance upon this state.

The institute praised Referendum 71’s inclusion on the November ballot, an effort by opponents of legislation that expands domestic partnership rights to gay and lesbian families. The legislation also grants senior domestic partners the same rights as married partners, all without actual marriage. The Family Policy Institute has called this legislation a “threat to religious liberty” as well as a “bribe” for seniors. In reality, this legislation is a threat to deeply-ingrained prejudices and a fear of change. Throughout history, any attempts to expand the rights of marginalized people have been met with resistance. Examples include women’s suffrage and the desegregation of schools. Americans treasure their right to maximum personal freedom and independence. In this case, the institute asks voters to reject the legislation – and limit personal freedom and independence for a small slice of the population. That way of thinking is counterproductive to American values.

Related:  Straight seniors rely on domestic partnerships

KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio produced an excellent piece featuring the straight senior-citizen couple Steve Doty & Linda Dunbar.  Steve & Linda tell us why they got a domestic partnership, and why it is so important to them that Washington votes “approved” on Referendum 71.  Click here to stream the audio.  The transcript is below.  After you listen, you may be interested in downloading the flier Why do seniors need the protection of domestic partnerships?, provided by Washington Families Standing Together.  Thoughts from our opponents on seniors and domestic partnerships, after the fold.

Referendum 71 Seniors

10/02/2009

Steve Doty and Linda Dunbar are a senior-citizen couple. They live in North Seattle and they’ve been together a long time. They’ve seen each other through her breast cancer and his Parkinson’s Disease. But they’re not married. Steve and Linda would be directly affected by Referendum 71. It’s a measure that’s going to be on the Washington state ballot November 3.

Dunbar: “Yeah, this is for better or worse, sickness and health.”

Reporter: “Did you guys ever think about getting married?”

Dunbar: “I don’t think so. One of the things that happened was that I was baptized in the Roman Catholic church. And I’ve been divorced. I could not receive sacrament if I married again. And I guess living in sin – quote, unquote – is different than that.”

In the last legislative session, lawmakers passed a new set of expanded rights for domestic partners. It’s nicknamed the “Everything but Marriage” law. And it’s controversial because it extends rights to gay couples – as though they were married. But it also affects older heterosexual couples if one of them is over age 62.

Linda and Steve’s dog, Schuster, runs back and forth between them as they sit in their modest apartment. They recently got rid of their couch to give Steve more room to maneuver with his walker. Linda jokes that her partner can be a handful.

Dunbar: “He’s very difficult – no, I’m kidding. We’ve been together since 1991. We just thought that it would be a really good thing if we made a commitment to each other. And not just move in and have a fling. This is the real deal.”

Steve and Linda have registered their domestic partnership with the state. They say getting married would hurt them financially. Older couples who marry can lose some of their social security benefits, or pensions.

Bill Dorn talks to couples like Steve and Linda all the time. He’s with Senior Services of King County. The agency helps seniors understand their rights. He finds many are reluctant to talk about their unmarried status.

Dorn: “There are a lot of seniors who find themselves choosing to be a couple, and not marry because of those financial concerns. And they come from a generation, where that’s not socially acceptable.”

Anne Levinson chairs the Approve 71 campaign to uphold the state’s domestic partner rights. She says many seniors don’t realize hospitals could keep them from a loved-one’s bedside. Or from claiming a body and making funeral arrangements if their partner dies.

Levinson: “I think with seniors, and with the rest of us … it often takes a crisis for us to realize that without those legal protections, we are often left in not only a financially tenuous position but in terms of being able to make decisions for our loved ones, or have access to care. The tragedies we’ve seen over and over again when an emergency strikes and people do not have the protections of domestic partnership laws – it’s sad.”

Opponents to Referendum 71 didn’t return numerous phone calls. The group Protect Marriage Washington is against Referendum 71. Its Website says expanding domestic partnership rights isn’t necessary because seniors and others can obtain many of those same protections through wills and contracts.

Steve and Linda say they want their relationship respected as though they were married. Linda once wound up in the emergency room with a head injury. But doctors wouldn’t tell Steve what was happening because they weren’t married and weren’t yet registered partners. They don’t want to lose the rights they now have.

Dunbar: “I mean I have to be realistic about our age, and I think making those life decisions that mean so much. I don’t want him left out, and I fear that could happen – that he wouldn’t be able to see me, or that I would be at the mercy of a hospital somewhere where, where I can’t make a decision for myself.”

Voting* on Referendum 71 can be tricky. A “yes” vote would leave intact the expanded rights for domestic partners already approved by the Legislature.

A “no” vote would repeal those rights.

I’m Carol Smith, KUOW News.

And it’s as simple as that.  Referendum 71 is about protecting ALL Washington families fairly and equally under the law.  And making it possible for loving partners to care for each other in times of crisis.  Despite what “reject” advocate Larry Stickney says, it is impossible to get real protections with just wills and powers of attorney.  But he’s perfectly welcome to try that route himself, if he thinks it’s all that.

*Technical note: the ballot language actually asks voters whether the domestic partnership law should be “approved” or “rejected”. (more…)

Laurel Ramseyer

Laurel Ramseyer

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