Project 515 at Pride
An enormous onslaught of GLBT singles, couples, and families is about to hit Loring Park. Pride is always a time to celebrate our accomplishments; remember how many people we are fighting for; and connect with old friends and make some new ones, too. It is also a reminder of all the work we still face.
At this year’s Pride, Project 515 will be on hand to remind us all of our standing in the eyes of Minnesota statutes. If we choose to enter long-term, same-sex relationships, we’ve got 515 laws making it harder to care for our families than if we were heterosexual married couples.
We hope you’ll stop by Project 515’s booth to learn more about our mission, and how you can help improve life for all our families. We are a focused initiative with a specific, achievable goal: to ensure that same sex couples and their families have equal rights and considerations under Minnesota law. Like most Minnesotans, we believe that all families should be equally valued and respected in their homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, and communities.
Our first goal is to continue changing the debate. We want our leaders to start talking about fairness and ending discrimination. We want them to consider how we can make Minnesota a better place to live. Fairness and ending discrimination mean realizing we need to eliminate or change laws—all 515 of them—that specifically disenfranchise anyone in a same-sex, long-term relationship.
So far, legislators from various parts of the state are listening, largely because of the stories of everyday Minnesotans who must struggle with the discrimination enforced by state law.
Tim Reardon and his daughter, Tess, are one such family. He has been an outspoken advocate for Project 515, because he has experienced firsthand how Minnesota’s laws openly discriminate against people in same-sex, long-term relationships.
When Tim and his partner, Eric, decided to have a child through a surrogate, they made certain all the legal documents were in order. The couple already had a partnership agreement, executed before their commitment ceremony in 2001. They had drafted powers of attorney, health-care directives, and every document they could obtain within the restrictions of the law to be certain their relationships to one another and their future children were clear and protected.
Yet, when Tess was born in 2003, Tim and Eric waited for a year for a judge’s order for a birth certificate, because the state insisted on DNA testing for proof of paternity. The cost, both monetary and emotional, was enormous.
Adding to the burden was a serious health challenge. Three months after Tess’s birth, Eric was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. The family life Tim and Eric had dreamed of suddenly was thrown into chaos. They returned to their attorney to be certain their paperwork was in order. It had become imperative that Tim clearly was named the person to “call the shots” upon Eric’s death.
Four years later, when Eric was to go from the hospital to a hospice residence, a social worker collected a financial screening to determine his eligibility for memorial funds to offset hospice costs not covered by insurance or Medicaid. The hospital business office wanted to include Tim’s earnings in the calculation of “household income.”
“They wanted to recognize our relationship when it was financially in their best interest,” Tim said.
Tim refused. Yet, when Eric died a short time later, Tim was informed that the medical examiner and cremation society could not recognize his relationship to Eric as next of kin, with the right to make decisions about Eric’s remains.
Even though Tim showed administrators a power-of-attorney document, a health-care directive, and Eric’s will—all clearly naming Tim as the decision-make—it turned out that Eric’s health-care directive wasn’t complete. A required separate initial-box had been missed. In the absence of it, the decision defaults to the legal next of kin, who would be first the spouse. As a result, only with the consent of Eric’s mother and father was Tim ultimately allowed to sign the cremation society paperwork.
Tim stated, “For three years, I’d cared for Eric, as his health deteriorated, and he became increasingly dependent on me for attention to even his most basic bodily functions, and yet, after his death they had the audacity to question our relationship. I felt so violated and angry that they would not acknowledge our relationship. Any legally married spouse is automatically recognized as next of kin, and is granted that right by law with no papers, no lawyers, and no need to prove their relationship at life’s most vulnerable moments—the law protects them from such insult.”
Tim’s story is just one of many. We need your help to identify the everyday ways families experience discrimination from our laws. With your support, we can wake up Minnesotans, so they realize the breadth of the discrimination we face.
Visit us at Pride to share your stories, and learn how you can get involved.
Help Project 515 work for equality by telling us your story, or by donating your time or money. Go to www.project515.org.