Okay, this post feels kind of big and scary to write, so I’ve been putting it off. Much like my online nutrition class has been scary and boring to take, so I’ve been putting that off, too, but I now have a clean apartment and have emailed all the apartment people and caterers, so I am forcing myself to pick between blogging or taking my class. Obviously blogging wins. Don’t tell Turtle.
Before work on Thursday, Turtle and I took the dog for a walk, had some breakfast, and then drove in to Cambridge town hall. There are only three places where you can register a domestic partnership in Massachusetts: Cambridge, Provincetown, and somewhere else that I can’t seem to find online (does anyone know the answer to this?). Here we are at City Hall in Cambridge:
Yay City Hall!
So we went inside and found room 103 for the City Clerk. We knew that’s where we were supposed to go because it says so on this Domestic Partnership FAQ.
Now, I know what you’re wondering: What does it mean to be a domestic partner? How are you qualified to be a domestic partner?
Well, dear reader, I will tell you. First, you must be domestic, a la cleaning the apartment, walking the dog, making lunch and packing it in a paper bag for your partner, who is someone you love and support and is your partner in life. Duh.
No, but actually it’s not that far off. Here is what the fact sheet says about what a domestic partner is:
To be domestic partners, you and your partner must reside together … in a relationship of mutual support, caring and commitment, be 18 or over, and consider yourselves to be a family. Neither of you can be married to anyone, and neither of you can have a different domestic partner … You cannot be related to your partner [in any] relationship that would bar marriage.
“Reside together” means living together in a common household. A partner may be temporarily absent from the common household, so long as she or he has the intent to return. A partner may own or maintain an additional residence.
“Mutual Support” means that the domestic partners each contribute in some fashion, not necessarily equally or financially, to the maintenance and support of the domestic partnership.
So, somehow we should consider somewhere home, even if we don’t both own it or live there, and even if we live somewhere else. We should be in what is considered a “relationship.” And we should have $25 to give to the city clerk. What does this get us? “A Certificate of Domestic Partnership and two wallet-sized cards indicating the existence of the partnership, [and] the names of the domestic partners.”
Besides that, we get some “access rights” that spouses get, like hospital and correctional facilities visitation. This works out great with my plan to land in jail soon! No, but really, the hospital stuff can be important, and, most importantly, my insurance allows me to add Turtle to my plan if we’re domestic partners.
The interesting thing that happened came after I posted this picture on Facebook soon after we got home. After all, it was exciting: our relationship is now legally recognized, even if the only thing we have to do to dissolve it is sign one piece of paper. I should note that, along with the picture, I wrote, “We’re official! Officially able to share health insurance…” (note: health insurance was the whole reason we decided to do this!)
People started to ask me if we’d gotten married. Several people said congratulations on our marriage. And while it’s really sweet that people noticed and remembered, I was definitely struck by this, and I guess I’m still trying to articulate why for myself.
I think that I’m upset because so many people equate domestic partnership and marriage, and it is not the same thing at all. Not at all.
In my search for the other town in which you can register a DP, I found this sweet summary:
There are hundreds of laws that are triggered by legal marriage. In most locations, Domestic Partner Registrations prompts very few benefits, if any, and outside of that jurisdiction, they are legally entirely worthless.
The most a registration generally does is to allow you access if your partner is in prison or in a hospital. Usually they don’t even allow you to make medical decisions, should your partner be incapacitated… Domestic partnership registrations are nothing whatever like legal marriage. And unlike legal marriage, they have such little history that their legal status is uncertain.
So, we live in Massachusetts. We can legally marry in Massachusetts (don’t get me started on filing taxes). We plan to legally marry in MA in just over 200 days. This is not the same as a domestic partnership.
I think that part of what is frustrating is how other people just accept that this is what we get, that this is what we do, that this is equivalent to marriage. Besides that, every straight couple that I have suggested domestic partnership to, for heath insurance reasons or visitation reasons, or whatever it is – because it is available regardless of gender – seems uninterested. “No, we’ll just get married,” or “No, we’re not ready for the commitment” are some of the answers I’ve heard. Is it strange that these strike me as very privileged responses?
I’m having a hard time articulating my frustration. Does anyone have input? Has anyone had a similar response? Is everyone really, really happy for me that I was able to become a domestic partner?
We’re happy because at least in our state, we will have some legal protections.