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September 06, 2009

Straight seniors rely on domestic partnerships

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Domestic partnerships in Washington are about protecting families.  All families.  Grandma & Grandpa’s included.  Seattle Times staff writer Lornet Turnbull describes how anti-LGBT activists have framed the domestic partnerships debate around gays, sidestepping for them what must be an inconvenient truth: rejecting the domestic partnership bill would hurt heterosexual seniors.

John Boehrer and Lynn Elmore registered as domestic partners shortly after state law first allowed it two years ago because they wanted to be able to make critical decisions about one another’s care, if it ever comes to that.

Together eight years and both in their 60s, they’ve chosen not to marry in part because Elmore, who is divorced, would lose certain benefits.

In Washington state, heterosexual couples can get a domestic partnership if at least one partner is 62 years old or older.

“I think people may not be very well-educated about the full scope of the law, that it affects more than just same-sex couples,” Elmore said. “They may not consider what it means to people like us.”

Inexplicably, the powerful senior citizens advocacy organization AARP has remained silent on the issue, despite their claim that


We stand up for our members and society as a strong nonpartisan advocate for social change. We work on the issues that are important to 50+ Americans, including health and financial security and livable communities.

Domestic partnerships qualify under “financial security” at least.  AARP members may want to contact their organization (1-888-OUR-AARP) and demand that AARP stand by seniors in domestic partnerships.  Heterosexual seniors are getting domestic partnerships in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Washington state and Washington, D.C..  So vital to have these family protections in uncertain economic times like these.

Closer to home, The Washington Senior Citizen Lobby is on-board, and that is encouraging.

The Washington Senior Citizen Lobby, representing 26 agencies and organizations that deal mostly with senior issues, said it supported the expansion that passed this year and is working with Washington Families to win voter approval of the law in November.

Senior Services, Advisory Council on Aging and Disability Services Seattle/King County and Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans have joined with over 150 other organizations that endorse Washington Families Standing Together’s campaign to preserve the domestic partnership law.

According to calculations in the article, in Washington there are about 410 straight senior couples in domestic partnerships, many living “in smaller towns and rural areas, and large numbers are in Eastern Washington.”  In other words, they’re in the places that need to hear their voices most.

Elmore said some friends and family members in Eastern Washington, where she grew up, may not support full protections for gays. She plans to e-mail them to let them know that a vote against the law is also a vote against her and Boehrer.

“I need them to understand that this affects me, too.”

Friends and family of partnered seniors like Lynn Elmore need to vote APPROVED on Referendum 71.

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