Hospital Visitation for Domestic Partners

by Scott Wong – Dec. 17, 2008 05:30 PM
The Arizona Republic

Phoenix will become the second city in Arizona to offer its residents a program that grants hospital-visitation rights to all domestic partners.

The Phoenix City Council on Wednesday unanimously voted to create a domestic-partner registry, following in the footsteps of Tucson which launched a similar program in 2003. Councilmembers Maria Baier, Peggy Neely and Thelda Williams were absent for what was the last council meeting of the year.

The registry only guarantees that domestic partners have the same hospital visitation rights as immediate family members, such as spouses, parents and children. It costs each couple $50 to sign up.

Backers of the proposal said the registry is necessary because domestic partners too often are prevented from seeing their loved one receiving medical care because of the wishes of the patient’s family.

“During a medical emergency, there is a state of chaos that happens and partners aren’t able to see their loved ones,” Councilman Michael Nowakoski said before the vote. “This piece of paper will allow them to do that.”

Several dozen supporters of the registry, many from gay-rights group Equality Arizona, turned out to watch the council vote Wednesday. Only one person spoke in opposition to the registry.

Austin Nimocks of the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group in Scottsdale that advocates for traditional family values, said the registry was unnecessary and called scenarios where domestic partners are prevented from seeing their loved ones “a nonexistent circumstance.”

Nimocks pointed out that unmarried couples already can execute a power of attorney or health care directive that would give their partners visitation rights or the ability to make medical decisions.

“It is not necessary to create a registry to publically acknowledge somebody’s relationship in order for that to occur,” he told the council.

The registry will be available to Phoenix residents on Feb. 9. For information, call the Phoenix Equal Opportunity Department at (602) 261-8242.

Reach the reporter at scott.wong@arizonarepublic.com.

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