‘Death rights’ for same-sex couples vetoed by Pawlenty


Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed the Final Wishes/Wrongful death bill that would have given same-sex couples some rights when a partner dies. Pawlenty rejected the bill saying that he believes that marriage is between a man and a woman and that the bill was unnecessary.

“Marriage — as defined as between a man and a woman — should remain elevated in our society at a special level, as it traditionally has been,” said Pawlenty in his veto message. “I oppose efforts to treat domestic relationships as the equivalent of traditional marriage.”

Reactions from the LGBT community have been sharp.

Sen. Scott Dibble said:

“It is very disappointing that the Governor is willing to politicize the most personal and difficult decisions of a person’s lifetime,” Sen. Dibble said. “These are, perhaps the most sensitive decisions someone will ever make regarding the one they love. The Governor’s veto sends the message that he would like the state to stand in the way of families’ most sacred responsibilities during the most difficult moment of their lives.”

“This bill was about basic human decency,” Sen. Dibble added. “We have heard too many heart-wrenching stories of Minnesotans suffering unimaginable indignities because the current law stood in the way. It is incredibly unfortunate that we are allowing government red tape and partisan extremism to block loving couples through the final phase of life.”

Ann Kaner-Roth of Project 515 said:

“We are very disappointed in Governor Pawlenty’s refusal to ensure an equal opportunity for committed same-sex couples to take care of their families in the darkest and most personal of times. Most Minnesotans expect government to treat residents equally. Unfortunately, Governor Pawlenty’s veto runs counter to Minnesota values and affirms the discrimination that currently exists in at least 515 state laws.

“The Governor’s facts are wrong. Same-sex couples can’t sue for wrongful death, and current law does not provide the same level of protection for a same-sex partner trying to carry out their deceased partner’s final wishes. His comment that the proposed legislation is unnecessary shows he is out of step with the experiences of real Minnesotans. Many families have faced exactly the kind of discrimination this legislation sought to prevent even though they had put in place all of the legal and other preparations available to them under current law. Without statutory change, families will continue to face discrimination.

“The language in this bill reflects closely language already used by Minnesota’s leading businesses. It’s concerning that the Governor is short-sighted on what businesses already know is good for our state — equality and fairness for all Minnesotans.”

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Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.