Dutchess proposal has faced resistance in past

The Dutchess clerk would like to see the county allow residents and its employees to register as domestic partners if they have been living together for at least a year.

County Clerk Brad Kendall proposed legislation that was introduced in the Legislature on Monday (Sept. 12) that would give unmarried partners, including same-sex couples, the same rights as spouses if they can show they are in a “close and continuous” relationship.

The law would also cover Dutchess County employees, regardless of where they live, and mirror registries in nearby counties such as Putnam, which approved a domestic partner registry in 2008.

Kendall, a Republican who has been county clerk since 2006, issued a statement on Sept. 9 calling attention to the legislation, which he had proposed to County Executive Marc Molinaro and Legislative Chair Gregg Pulver in May, sending along a draft of a Dutchess law based on one enacted in Suffolk County, as well as the forms he would provide for establishing or dissolving a partnership.

The clerk noted that Dutchess is home to many residents who have moved from places with domestic-partner registries, such as New York City and Rockland and Westchester counties, as well as Putnam. In Dutchess, “they are unable to continue to prove their partner status since most jurisdictions require residency,” he wrote.

“Establishing a registry now would allow those whose long-term relationships have been acknowledged in other jurisdictions to be recognized in their new county of residence,” he wrote. “It will also allow partners to participate more fully in joint financial and medical decision-making.”

What It Means

Although laws vary by municipalities and states, domestic partnerships typically include rights afforded to spouses such as:

■ Eligibility for a family health insurance policy and benefits.
■ The right to family leave for a sick partner.
■ The right to bereavement and child care leave.
■ Visitation rights in hospitals and jails.
■ The addition to a rental agreement as a family member.

Pulver, a Republican who represents Pine Plains and other parts of northern Dutchess County, said the proposal will be considered by the Government Services and Administration Committee when it meets next month.

“I don’t know why we wouldn’t do it,” he said. “There’s a lot of domestic partnerships out there.”

If the Legislature were to pass the law, couples would need to complete a notarized affidavit and provide at least two documents showing their financial interdependence, such as a bank or investment account statement, deed, power of attorney or life insurance policy.

The Dutchess Legislature has considered recognizing domestic partners at least three times over the past 22 years, but the proposals “sometimes got derailed by extraneous concerns,” wrote Kendall.

In 2000, a proposal died after Republican leaders said it would have to first be negotiated with unions. In 2002, a proposal was introduced but pulled from consideration. And in 2007, a proposal died in the Government Services and Administration Committee on a 7-5 vote.

Robert Sears, a Republican who then represented LaGrange, joined with five of his party members and a Democrat, Alison MacAvery, whose district included part of Beacon, to prevent it from being sent to the full Legislature.

“Passing this resolution is not only going to condone it, but reward it,” said Sears at the time. “It destroys marriage; it destroys the foundation of this country.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

The Peekskill resident is a former reporter for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, where he covered Sullivan County and later Newburgh. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.