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Domestic partner probate rights

Published (3/11/2010)
By Mike Cook
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When a gay man was hospitalized, the man’s partner was unable to visit him in the same way that a heterosexual couple can.

“That really got me thinking about the inequality that many of our neighbors and constituents face on a day-to-day basis,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls).

He sponsors HF3134 to provide equal access to personal asset distribution in relation to the uniform probate code.

Approved March 10 by the House Civil Justice Committee on a split-voice vote, the bill goes to the House floor. Its companion, SF2765, sponsored by Sen. Linda Scheid (DFL-Brooklyn Park), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“This essentially puts into place a definition for domestic partners, and opens up the probate statute to include that definition in the places where ‘spouse’ is indicated,” said Ann Kaner-Roth, executive director of Project 515, an nonprofit organization that aims to ensure same-sex couples have equal rights and considerations under state law. “The protections that would be allowed would allow the assets of a person who dies without a will in place to be distributed to their domestic partner.”

If a spouse in a married couple dies without a will, the other spouse “is sort of the default recipient of the estate,” she added.

Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, spoke against the bill, saying it is a way to “redefine marriage by another name under the guise of domestic partnerships. … Married couples have a legal status and legal obligations, whereas these individuals are getting the benefits without the responsibilities.”

He also said the bill is discriminatory because it could violate a human rights discrimination provision, and it excludes other people that might care for another person.

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