Family Diversity Initiative
Domestic Partnerships, Civil Unions and functional definitions of family were created by over time as an alternative to civil marriage. They were never understood to be a temporary, stop-gap measure to fill in a gap until such time as same-sex couples could marry.
Unfortunately, some employers and institutional actors, such as local governments, have misinterpreted the marriage equality movement's litigation victories in cases such as U.S. v. Windsor and legislative victories expanding civil marriage to same-sex couples to entail the disestablishment and non-recognition of non-marital family forms.
The Family Diversity Initiative works to coordinate efforts by advocates, academics, and policy-makers to retain already-existing domestic partnership policies, functional definitions of family, and other forms of recognition of family members, units and households that do not fit within the narrow definition of the marital family. So too, we work to expand current policies that limit recognition of family members and households to a blood or marital relation.
Family Diversity in Access to Employment Benefits
Some private employers have discontinued domestic partner benefits policies in the mistaken belief that U.S. v. Windsor requires or justifies them doing so. Some public employers have withrdrawn domestic partner benefits once their state law was changed to allow same-sex couples to marry (such as Arizona). Columbia University is one of the private employers that announced a withdrawal of domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples once they were allowed to marry in New York State. After advocacy opposing this change the University reversed its decision and reinstated insurance coverage for the same-sex domestic partners of employees. The University was urged to include different-sex domestic partners in policy change as well but it declined to do so.
Family Diversity in Access to Housing Accommodations
Subsidized housing programs in New York City have used a functional definition of "family member" since the New York Court of Appeals required that it do so under the New York State Constitution in Braschi v. Stahl Associates in 1989. Those factors are:
(B) Any other person residing with the tenant/cooperator in the apartment as a primary residence who can prove emotional and financial commitment and interdependence between such person and the tenant/cooperator. Although no single factor shall be determinative, evidence which is to be considered in determining whether such emotional and financial commitment and interdependence existed shall be the income affidavit filed by the tenant/cooperator for the apartment and other evidence which may include, without limitation, the following factors:
(a) longevity of the relationship;
(b) sharing of or relying upon each other for payment of household or family expenses, and/or other common necessities of life;
(c) intermingling of finances as evidenced by, among other things, joint ownership of bank accounts, personal and real property, credit cards, loan obligations, sharing a household budget for purposes of receiving government benefits, etc.;
(d) engaging in family activities by jointly attending family functions, holidays and celebrations, social and recreational activities, etc.;
(e) formalizing of legal obligations, intentions, and responsibilities to each other by such means as executing wills naming each other as executor and/or beneficiary, granting each other a power of attorney and/or conferring upon each other authority to make health care decisions each for the other, entering into a personal relationship contract, registering a domestic partnership pursuant to Executive Order No. 48, dated January 7, 1993 or Local Law No. 27 of 1998, serving as a representative payee for purposes of public benefits, or other such formalizations;
(f) holding themselves out as family members to other family members, friends, members of the community or religious institutions, or society in general, through their words or actions;
(g) regularly performing family functions, such as caring for each other or each other's extended family members, and/or relying upon each other for daily family services;
(h) engaging in other patterns of behavior, or other action which evidences the intention of creating a long-term, emotionally committed relationship. In no event shall evidence of a sexual relationship between such persons be required or considered.
In no event shall evidence of a sexual relationship between such persons be required or considered
New York, N.Y., R.C.N.Y. tit. 28, ch. 3, § 30-2 (p)(2)(ii)(B).
The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development proposed to eliminate the functional definition of "family member" contained in the regulations governing the Mitchell-Lama housing program, a program designed to make housing more available to low- and middle-income people, and to substitute "spouse" in its place.