Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples
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Anatomy of a Domestic Partnership Affidavit
The Good, The Ugly, and The Bad
© 2001, Demian


Many domestic partnership registration or benefit plans, whether for government or private business, require participants to sign an affidavit declaring their relationship. Since there are no standards for domestic partner affidavits, the documents can have a very wide range of contents.

The major reason businesses ask employees to sign one is in the hopes of preventing potential fraud. However, signing such a document still guarantees nothing, for after all, even those with marriage licenses commit fraud.

Further, if a business doesn’t ask to see a marriage license in order to get benefits, then it has no valid reason to ask for a domestic partner affidavit.

Practically speaking, we find that the majority of people are honest and these affidavits really serves no useful purpose. Unfortunately, some of these affidavits can potentially harm those who sign. And some of them have requirements way beyond that which is required of a marriage license.

Couples signing an affidavit should expect a written promise from an employer that it will be held confidential, subject to disclosure only upon written authorization or court order. However, forms filed with cities or counties are usually public information.

Since the document can potentially make partners financially liable for each other’s support and debts, some couples and attorneys have questioned the wisdom of registering, particularly if doing so provides only negligible benefits. For this reason, it may be advisable to consult an attorney before signing.

If an affidavit is absolutely required by a business, here are some guidelines for their creation. Shown below are various provisions seen in affidavits, along with our commentary. First we present elements of a fairer affidavit (“The Good”), which most closely resembles the terms of legal marriage. Following that are elements that we view as inappropriate to downright unjust.

The Good — equal treatment
Elements Most Like Legal Marriage Our Commentary
Neither of us is married. These generally correspond to marriage requirements.
We are both over 18 years of age.
We were mentally competent to consent to contract when our domestic partnership began.
We are the sole domestic partner of each other and have no other domestic partners.
We agree to give notification of any change in the status of our agreement. Not an idle request. If the couple breaks up, they must sign an affidavit of dissolution. This is the equivalent of notifying an insurance carrier or employer of a divorce.
The Ugly — not employers’ business
Elements Commonly Added Our Commentary
We share the common necessities of life and are responsible for each other’s welfare. Attorneys caution that attesting to financial interdependence may make partners legally liable for each other’s debts or financial support. If signing the affidavit will result in no tangible benefits, this clause could be viewed as unjust and inadvisable.
We declare under penalty of perjury that these statements are true and correct. Private employers may invoke a different type of penalty for false statements. Clauses like these can help silence critics who warn of abuse; however, there have been no reports of fraudulent registration.
We, individually, were not part of a domestic partnership or marriage within ___ days prior to forming this domestic partnership. Should not exceed state’s waiting period between divorce and remarriage, if any.
We reside together. Not conditions of legal marriage.
We intend to remain together indefinitely.
We are not related by blood closer than would bar marriage in this state. This restriction has no biological basis for same-sex couples, who can only produce progeny with genetic material from a third party. (Some employees intentionally include close biological relatives, such as a mother and her adult son.)
The Bad — grossly unequal treatment
Occasionally Added Elements Our Commentary
We have been each other’s domestic partner for at least ___ months. Some plans have required waiting periods of up to one year to establish the validity of the relationship. Opposite-sex couples are not similarly fettered since marriage rights and privileges are bestowed immediately.

Unlike legal marriage, which has consistent rules within each state, there can be significant differences in affidavits from town to town, as well as from business to business. The City of Berkeley, the first U.S. government to offer domestic partner benefits in 1984, uses an affidavit stating that after terminating an affidavit a new one cannot be filed for six months. Seattle’s affidavit has a waiting period of 30 days.

If the idea of the registration is to create equal conditions for those who are not allowed to marry, we question some of the conditions that crop up in some of these forms. For instance, those affidavits, like Seattle’s, which require that the couple live together and “have a close personal relationship.” Legal marriage does not require that the couple live together, have sex, be in love, or even like each other.

In all, domestic partner registration is an extremely poor second to legal marriage and it only makes sense to sign such affidavits when it provides a real benefit, such as health insurance, that would otherwise be unavailable.

For those partners desiring validation as a couple, it may be more sensible to consider instead creating a wedding or other ceremony to celebrate the love and commitment.






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