Rep. Travis speaks at the statehouse Jan. 11. Pilot photo by Neil W. McCabe
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A leading supporter of putting the legality of same-sex marriage before the voters announced Jan. 11 he was filing legislation that would grant marriage-like benefits to adults ineligible for marriage.
The Benefits Fairness Act would protect the benefits of same-sex married couples if the voters redefine marriage between a man and a woman, as well as allow other adults, such as an elderly brother and sister, to designate an individual to have legal standing in medical, legal and other matters, said State Rep. Phillip Travis, D- Rehoboth, the bill’s main author.
“This act offers Massachusetts citizens a practical and cost effective way of securing legitimate and necessary rights, responsibilities and benefits based on need, not on sexual preference,” Travis said.
The act would allow two Massachusetts adults, who are not eligible for marriage, to file a contract with the secretary of state to provide for reciprocal hospital visitation, health care proxy designation, after-death decisions, inheritance and estate designation and mental health decisions, he said.
Travis said his bill was the fulfillment of a promise he made during the previous debates over the legality of same-sex marriage, when he pledged to work to answer charges that legalized same-sex marriages were the only way to remedy gaps in the state’s legal recognition of friendships and partnerships.
“Why are we doing this? We were challenged that we would be taking benefits away,” he said.
Travis has heard for four years that this legislation was necessary, so now he has filed it, he said.
Standing with Travis were legislators and supporters, including Kristian M. Mineau, the president of the Massachusetts Family Institute and a spokesman for VoteOnMarriage.org, who said he will work with legislators and through the grassroots to urge the passage of the act.
“Our goal is to protect the rights of all people: children to a mom and a dad; adults ineligible for marriage to appropriate benefits and protections, and citizens to a right to vote,” he said.
Travis made clear that the contracts under his bill would not be the same as civil unions and would not require a divorce if they end. The individuals involved would simply file a statement with the state stating that the contract was not longer in effect.
Similar legislation was passed in 1997 in Hawaii, and is being considered in New Hampshire, he said.
According to Travis, work on the bill began last June and the wording has gone through at least 10 drafts.
The bill has 35 sections that are under review by the House Counsel’s office, he said.
Once the bill has been vetted by that office by the end of the week, Travis said he will give legislators another week to join him and the other co-sponsors, Rep. Robert S. Hargraves, R-Groton; Rep. Elizabeth A. Poirier, R-North Attleboro; Rep. Mark J. Carron, D-Southbridge; Rep. Emile J. Goguen, D-Fitchburg; Rep. Vincent deMacedo, R-Plymouth; Rep. Edward G. Connolly, D-Malden and Rep. Paul J. Donato, D-Medford.
Standing at the foot of the state house’s Grand Staircase, the 23-year veteran of the Great and General Court said throughout his tenure he had only supported valid bills. “This is a valid bill.”
“I talked to a lot of people in this building, and I have not heard one reasonable objection,” he said.