by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: June 27, 2007 - 5:00 pm ET
(Washington) President Bush issued a warning to Congress on Wednesday that he will veto budget appropriations for the District of Columbia unless the measure contains language barring the district from using any of the money for its domestic partner registry.
The registry allows same and opposite-sex unmarried couples to register their relationships.
Three quarters of the District of Columbia's budget comes from local revenue - city taxes and fees. But, about $120 million in additional funds comes from the federal government.
That money is contained in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act.
Under Republicans the legislation stated that none of the federal money could be used to support the partner registry. When Democrats took control of Congress the requirement was removed.
In threatening a veto the White House on Wednesday issued a statement saying: "The Administration strongly opposes the bill’s exclusion of a longstanding provision that disallows the use of Federal funds to register unmarried, cohabitating couples in the District, to enable them to qualify for benefits on the same basis as legally married couples. Under Federal law, legal marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Federal tax dollars are not used to extend employment benefits to domestic partners of Federal employees, and D.C. should not enjoy an exception to this rule."
The Domestic Partner registry includes such partner rights as hospital and nursing home visitations, medical decisions, and inheritance rights.
"With his popularity at an all time low, this President has yet again dipped his cup into the well of anti-gay bigotry," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.
"He has issued a veto threat on funding for the District of Columbia because long-term, committed couples want to have such basic rights as visiting each other in the hospital and making medical decisions for their partner. The anti-gay zeal of this Administration has reached a new low."
Gay Democrats seized on the veto threat as another example of wedge politics.
"This is a misleading veto threat designed to parrot the talking points of the anti-gay special interests which control and finance the Republican Party, said National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jo Wyrick,
"President Bush would never threaten to withhold federal funds from California because it employs a domestic partnership registry. Yet, Republicans feel that the District of Columbia is their financial playground that they can use to bully local families at the pleasure of their anti-gay agenda. That is wrong."
The District of Columbia established a local domestic partnership registry in 1992. However, the Republican congressional leadership routinely prevented the registry from being enacted until 2002.
Since that time, the Republican-led Congress have repeatedly attached anti-gay language to past appropriations bills which stipulate that federal funds cannot be used to operate the program. Since local funds are used, observers have noted that the provision was simply used as a way for Republicans to demonstrate their disapproval for the law and for same-sex families.
The removal of the domestic partner provision from the financial services act came at the request of Congressman José Serrano (D-NY) and other Democrats.
"There are serious issues for the country to deal with, yet the President wants to focus on this," said Congressman José Serrano (D-NY) in a statement.
"This was a redundant provision that bashes the District of Columbia. There are no federal funds directed at the domestic partners registry. Its like putting out a statement that says that José Serrano is not a Republican. Yeah, we know that already. I took out this past provision because it is a bad statement that doesn't bring people together, but tries to divide them instead."
Ironically the legislation also provides financial support for federal programs including the salary of the President.
It is the second time in two months the president has threatened a veto over a gay issue.
In May the White House said that if legislation adding gays and lesbians to federal hate crime laws the president would nix it.