Alex Blaze

20% of same-sex couples in Oregon got registered

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 04, 2009 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: lesbian, LGBT, oregon, same-sex couples

From 365gay.com:

A year after Oregon established a domestic partner registry, about 2,600 Oregon same-sex couples - about one in five - have registered.[...]

Under the partnership law, couples who register are guaranteed the right to visit partners in hospital and make medical decisions, file joint state tax returns, and have joint health insurance plans or take sick leave to care for their partners.

Considering all we hear about same-sex couples wanting to get married, that seems a bit low to me. Sure, not every couple, gay or straight, is going to want to get married or DP'd, but 20%? The population of adults in the US who are married is around 50%, which means that with singles and people with same-sex partners taken out of the mix, that number should be well above 50% of all straight relationships.

The article mentions the fact that some people are "holding out for marriage" without citing any proof other than "LGBT rights activists say"... which means nothing. Are we so enamored with the idea of same-sex marriage that we actually think people are forgoing the rights associated with marriage as some form of silent protest?

Several of the comments on 365gay.com agree with the journalists' speculation:

I WILL SAY IT AGAIN--IT AINT MARRIAGE, FOLKS !!!!!!!!!! ITS SETTLING FOR SECOND BEST -IF THAT AT ALL.

Gays didn't rush out to gobble up the table scraps? How ungrateful!:-)

Who wants to register for something that is less then the real thing. Nobody wants to be treated as second class citizens so why would they accept a legal document that does not provide them with the full and equal value that all people enjoy. The gay community has fought and struggled over many centuries to gain the rights of equal marriage, to grant them anything less is just not acceptable or appropriate!

Well, I doubt any of these people are parts of unmarried same-sex couples in Oregon, so, well, I'm taking what they say with a grain of salt. If anyone here actually is, feel free to educate us in the comments, because the rest of this post is me idly thinking out loud.

Considering all that we hear about how same-sex couples need the right to marry, one would think that people would be rushing to at least get some of the rights. I'm all about the half-a-loaf being better than nothing at all, and I think most queer people are about that practical. If I needed the protections that come with registering, I'd do it and I doubt many people would simply "hold out" like those unnamed "LGBT rights activists" say they're doing.

The DP's come with far fewer rights than marriage does, and that could affect some people who would get married for certain rights that aren't offered with the DP registry. Considering that 7% of heterosexual couples marry for the health care benefits (a statement for the need for universal health care if ever there was one), and that the health care benefits associated with Oregon DP's probably aren't honored by every employer (like the federal government), it wouldn't be surprising if people just don't see a need to register.

Maybe there just hasn't been enough time in the past year? Hm.

Well, either way, this does give ammunition to both those in the community and on the outside who think that marriage/partnership recognition isn't a priority for LGBTQ people, for whatever reasons. If this really is a form of silent protest, it's probably the most ineffective form ever - if they really wanted marriage they should be showing both the demand and the fact that the sky won't fall if same-sex couples are recognized in that state.


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Alex, like you I am skeptical of the theory that the low participation rate is owing to a silent protest of some sort. I wonder where the baseline figure for making a 20% calculation comes from. But even accepting the numbers we're given there are couple of other questions that need consideration before the 20% figure has any substantive meaning. The first would be how many eligible couples know they're eligible. You'd think this was a no-brainer, but how does the state/ community do outreach to the target couples? Another consideration is, are the bennies worth the trouble of enrolling? Payoff is always a factor in determining how many people will undertake any given behavior.

I wish news agencies would be a little more thorough when they go about bandying statistics all over the place.

I absolutely agree. I'm trying to find out more about the statistic, but I really can't get any info.

I'm guessing, like Tobi suggests below, that they're using the census as a baseline and then using the number of DP's registered to find a percentage? That's pretty rough, and that would mean that the percentage is even lower in reality.

I'm really curious where they got those numbers from. The only thing I can think of is the census, but that only measured the number of same-sex headed households. So if you don't live together you're not included in that number.

More telling than the 20% figure is the fact that when one county in Oregon started giving out marriages, 3000 people got married in a matter of weeks. But when the entire state makes civil unions available, only 2600 take advantage of it after a year. That's a very significant comparison.

My parents, for example, went to CA to get a civil union, went back to SF to get married, then went to Portland to get married, and after having their marriage dissolved twice, they weren't all that energized about the idea of getting a domestic partnership. They probably wouldn't have made the effort effort except for the fact that I was involved in the opening day stuff.

As for myself, I'll also mention that I'm one of those Oregonian's in a same-sex relationship that's not getting a domestic partnership. I know I've said this before, but since I'm still grumpy I'll say it again -- because I'm not allowed to.

I'm not waiting for a silent protest to get more rights, I'll take any that I can get my hands on. But as it is, the domestic partnership law (like marriage) discriminates against poly folks.

I'm wondering if maybe the high number of people getting married a few years back was due to the hoopla surrounding it? I'm sure quite a few out-of-state couples showed up, and a lot of people who wanted to be a part of history were there.

I'm actually in agreement with the author of the story. DP benefits aren't the same as getting married. There's no excitement over "I got to sign a piece of paper to get better benefits!" It would be like celebrating getting insurance at work.

I think you're right when you say if you needed the protections you'd jump on the opportunity. I'd imagine the 20% would agree. The rest, I'd speculate, are waiting for the "real thing."

The 20% is from the Census. The Register Guard quoted this in their story
The total thus far represents slightly more than a quarter of the 8,900 same-sex couples in Oregon, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. By about 2012, roughly half of Oregon’s same-sex couples will be registered for domestic partnerships, predicts the Williams Institute, a University of California, Los Angeles, think tank.

One of the factors not mentioned in the stories, is the historical opposition and legal battles each time marriage or domestic partnership was approved. Even after DP was approved, it immediately went to court, the January effective date was delayed at the very last minute. It was frustrating; many couples plans had to be changed.

After that the opposition began gathering signatures for ballot initiatives for the Nov election. Though, they ultimately failed to get on the ballot, there were a few couples that I spoke with that simply didn't want to go through the process yet again, and have it over turned.

Then there are the legal and tax ramifications of DP in Oregon. If you have wills and other legal docs that you prepared prior to DP, you now have to change them to reflect the DP. This years tax filing requires that you not only submit the joint filing for Oregon, but submit an "As If" (your married) federal tax return with your Oregon return AND file your respective single fed returns. This all adds up to a lot of money and frustration.

I haven't heard a lot of silent protests waiting for marriage. I think for many of us who have been in long term relationships got the DP because we need the legal protections it provides. No matter what, the DP in Oregon is one step forward in the right direction.

Just an addendum, I meant to add that the DP in Oregon is the right direction for some. It still is separate not equal.

Also, many of us were waiting for the court ruling in California and its ballot initiative. There are a lot of things to consider when trying to figure out why "only" 20% filled out the paperwork for DP.