Some more interesting reading on the topic of the kinds of legal protections that QPs and other non-romantic partners may desire to seek out – there’s a lot to learn here from pre-existing LGBT activism around alternative families. One document that I consider a good read on the topic is the 2009 forum on “Alternative Families” by the SF Human Rights Commission:
Not all close human relationships fit into the mold of parent, child, sibling, or spouse. Many LGBT people, former foster or emancipated youth, seniors, and people from all walks of life are estranged from their biological relatives or have no surviving family. They have no spouse and rely on the protection of alternative families without the legal protection of blood relatives. These people are more than friends and they are not lovers. They are as brothers and sisters or adults with senior mentors, and they often become caregivers when illness and infirmity strikes, but have no legal standing in hospitals, employer benefits, or in the legal line of consanguinity.
Family law mechanisms focus on spousal and parental relationships through marriage, divorce, adoption, and the emancipation of minors. However, there is no easy way to convey a legal standing between friends similar to the family rights of siblings or non-spousal domestic partnerships. There are no simple legal mechanisms to aid in the formation of caregiving cooperatives for the purpose of including the quality of care for a single ill, disabled, or single person.
Of particular interest may be Section IV: Legislative Proposals (p. 35), which proposes possible legislative solutions that could give more caregiving protections to non-blood related, non-spousal relationships.
On a state level, their suggestions include:
- State Caregiving cooperatives, in which rather than having a single designated caregiver (which is a role not all individuals may feel able to take on alone), a group of individuals could share a contract to act as caregivers, with rights and responsibilities such as hospital visitation, ability to discuss confidential health information, ability to act as a proxy desision maker, etc. (Power of medical attorney would still rest with a single individual for practical reasons)
- State Designated Benefeciary registries, in which any two adults not in a marriage or domestic partnership could register with the state as designated benefeciaries, and also choose which specific benefits to include (examples include inheriting property, visitation rights, insurance beneficiaries, having the right to sue in the event of wrongful death, and more. Unlike standard marriages or even domestic partnerships, partners would not need to be in a romantic relationship and could pick and choose which benefits to include, rather than an all-or-none package option. Colorado already has an examples of such a law!
- State Declarations of Kinship, in which an individual could register another such that they would have the same family law rights as a blood brother or sister (rather than being based on spousal or domestic partner rights) – similar in procedure to the state designated beneficiary registry above, but with a somewhat more limited package of available rights.
- Expanding domestic parterships to eliminate intimacy requirements and make then available to opposite-sex parterns as well (note – this was proposed in 2009, before marriage equality became the law nationwide). States should remove [romantic] intimacy and same-sex requirements such that the only requirement would be that the partners are in a “committed relationship of mutual caring”
Failing that, their recommendations for steps that local (i.e. city or county) governments could take include:
- More limited local declarations of kinship and domestic partnership expansions to non-romantic partners. While local governments have much less control over family law rights than states, they could mandate expansions to some things like visitation rights at hospitals within their jurisdiction and expansion of local benefits programs, like the SF Sick Leave Ordinance that I posted about a couple weeks ago.
- Family Law Contracting Centers, which would give residents centralized access to legal advice, standard contract language, notarization, and other resources to help them take advantage of the few benefits (like power of attorney) that are already available. Even though local governments can’t change state family law provisions, they can help fund programs that will make residents more informed and more able to access existing provisions.
- Designated advocates for educational decisions on behalf of a minor, which (if passed at a school district level) would allow parents and legal guardians to designated additional trusted adults, who would be able to pick small children up from school, attend parent-teacher hearings, etc.
Other suggestions which are floated but not discussed in depth include:
- The right for adults to to “disown” other adult biological family members and revoke their kinship rights
- Co-parenting and methods for granting full parental rights to more than two people