The New York state legislature last week passed a landmark law allowing state residents to designate a person to carry out their wishes after they die that includes the domestic partners of gay men and lesbians. The "death care proxy" approved by lawmakers is a simple form, similar to a health care proxy, that authorizes a person to make funeral, burial, and other arrangements. But the most sweeping section of the law is the one that states that when a person dies without a written death care proxy, decisions automatically revert to relatives, beginning with the person's spouse. For gay men and lesbians, the law gives decision-making priority to surviving domestic partners.
Gay Men's Health Crisis worked closely with the Empire State Pride Agenda in supporting passage of the legislation. "Over the years, scores of GMHC's clients have had severe difficulty with these issues," said GMHC executive director Ana Oliveira. "They wanted to make arrangements, but until this legislation no legal mechanism existed to ensure their wishes were followed. Because this bill gives domestic partners the same recognition as surviving spouses, we believe the many painful circumstances we have seen over the years can now be avoided."
The bill offers protection for many vulnerable populations, including people living with HIV or AIDS, low-income residents, seniors, and unmarried domestic partners, Oliveira says.
GMHC is urging Governor Pataki to sign the measure. It was not reported whether Pataki supports the bill.