The D.C. Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to give preliminary approval to a bill that would allow couples that had domestic partnerships legally registered in another jurisdiction to terminate those partnerships by judicial decree in the District.
The bill, the Domestic Partnership Termination Recognition Amendment Act of 2015, would amend the city’s existing domestic partnership law to correct a “legal quirk” that prevents couples who moved to D.C. from another jurisdiction from terminating their partnerships unless they reestablish residency in the state in which the partnership was originally registered.
According to a legislative report prepared by the Council’s Judiciary Committee, under the existing law couples may only terminate their partnerships using an administrative process at the D.C. Department of Health. The DOH has been in charge of registering and terminating domestic partnerships since the Council first passed the D.C. domestic partnership law in 1992.
Although the DOH has granted terminations of domestic partnerships to couples whose partnerships were registered in other jurisdictions, some of those jurisdictions do not recognize the terminations through an administrative process, saying such a process doesn’t carry the same weight as a judicial decree issued by a judge in a court of law.
The Council report says that since 2002, the DOH has registered 2,592 domestic partnerships and terminated 220.
“Registrations are almost evenly split between opposite-gender and same-gender partnerships,” the report says. “Of late, however, male/female-identified registrations comprise nearly 75 percent of all registrations,” it says, adding that so far in 2015 no partnerships were terminated and only two terminations were recorded in 2014.
LGBT activists have said that domestic partnerships became less popular among same-sex couples in D.C. since the city began legally recognizing same-sex marriage in 2010.
A second and final vote on the Domestic Partnership Termination Recognition Amendment Act has been scheduled for the Council’s next legislative session on Dec. 1.