Tim Pawlenty vetoes domestic partner equality bill

Categories: GLBT

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In a move likely to burnish his presidential prospects among social conservatives, Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a bill that granted same-sex couples the same end-of-life rights as married couples. The bill, which passed the legislature last week, would have given gay partners the power to decide about how to dispose of a body and file wrongful death suits.

"Marriage - defined as between a man and woman - should remain elevated in our society at a special level, as it traditionally has been. I oppose efforts to treat domestic relationships as the equivalent of traditional marriage. Accordingly, I am opposed to this bill," he said in his veto message.

Pawlenty also argues the bill is unnecessary because gay people can give their partners rights over their remains in their wills. Of course, married couples don't need to make special provisions in their wills to have these rights, and wills have nothing to do with the right to file wrongful death suits. But T-Paw says the bill would "stoke up a political controversy on a hot-button issue," so he nixed it.

Here's the full text:

The Honorable James P. Metzen President of the Senate

Dear President Metzen:

I have vetoed and am returning Chapter 355, Senate File 341. The bill addresses the categories of individuals who under the law shall be given priority for purposes of determining the disposition of the remains of a deceased person. Currently a person can, by executing a will, designate who shall be empowered to control final disposition of his or her remains. This bill therefore addresses a nonexistent problem.

Similarly, the bill addresses the class of individuals who may present notice of a wrongful death claim to the State of Minnesota or municipalities. Currently, notice of these claims may be made by a personal representative, surviving spouse, or next of kin. Again, a person can currently designate the personal representative responsible for handling his or her estate's affairs via a will.

Finally, the bill adds to the class of individuals that may petition the court to appoint a trustee for purposes of commencing a wrongful death action, as well as who may be a beneficiary of such actions. Wrongful death actions currently may be brought in the name of, and for the benefit of, the surviving spouse and next of kin. "Next of kin" is a precisely-defined class of individuals under the law. The courts do not have discretion in determining this class of blood relatives. Senate File 341 expands this class of individuals who may petition for appointment of a trustee to commence, and recover pursuant to, a wrongful death action to include a "surviving domestic partner." The definition of "domestic partner" included in this bill includes subjective criteria that would ask the court to ascertain whether individuals "have a committed interdependent relationship with each other, intend to continue that relationship indefinitely, and do not have this type of relationship with any other person." A "domestic partner" would be afforded the same legal recognition for purposes of the wrongful death laws as a spouse.

Marriage - defined as between a man and woman - should remain elevated in our society at a special level, as it traditionally has been. I oppose efforts to treat domestic relationships as the equivalent of traditional marriage. Accordingly, I am opposed to this bill.

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