Saturday, September 19, 2009

Heterosexual Couples Have It All Under Washington State Domestic Partnership Law

At a time when there is national concern that social security funds may soon run dry, it should be noted that the Washington State legislature recently gave official approval for what, in my opinion, is an unethical drain on these funds.

According to Laura Turnbull's article in the Seattle Times ("Ref 71: Heterosexual Partners Lost in the Debate") September 6, 2009, the legislature, in crafting the 2007 Domestic Partnership Law, included heterosexual couples, aged 62 and over. Coincidentally, a large number of this segment of our population is eligible for social security benefits and also includes, according to Turnbull's article, those who are receiving monthly social security support checks based on a former spouse's income.

Registered heterosexual Domestic Partners get to have it all. They receive legal benefits traditionally acquired through marriage, and probably enjoy improved financial situations that generally come from the pooling of two incomes. AND, by reporting themselves to Social Security as "unmarried," they can also keep that check from the ex-spouse coming.

This is probably one of these "certain benefits," that couples quoted in Turnbull's article stand to lose by remarrying.

But not by registering as Domestic Partners.

It is my understanding that initially, assistance based on a former spouse's income was intended for divorced persons who were starting over, trying to make it on their own, possibly inadequate, income and therefore needed temporary additional financial help.

The unmarried stipulation in social security law reflects the assumption that if divorced persons entered into new committed relationships (the only legal term for which at the time was "marriage") this would, in most cases, result in additional income for them and would then negate the need for on-going assistance.

Social security income based on a former spouse's income comes from YOU and ME. It comes from taxes we pay into a system that is about to go broke.

Domestic Partnerships aside, couples who live together and enjoy the benefits of pooling their incomes, and purposely decide not to marry to keep that check from an ex-spouse coming in, are adding to their income with YOUR TAXES and mine.

From this perspective, perhaps we have the right to ask the Social Security Administration to be more prudent in its distribution of tax dollars. Perhaps by cross-checking registered Domestic Partners with a list of those who are receiving social security checks based on a former spouse's income, perhaps by noting individual tax returns with addresses in common.

Perhaps it is time to update Social Security Law. Especially where it reads, "Recipients must be unmarried" by adding, "and not registered as state recognized Domestic Partners."

Printed the the Everett Herald, September, 2009