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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stark says Bill views Same-Sex Couples as a 'Family'

TEXT OF HEALTH REFORM BILL PROPOSES CONFUSING DEFINITIONS
ALAMEDA, Calif. - A gay couple asked Rep. Pete Stark Wednesday night how the bill he co-sponsored with many in the House Democratic leadership defined a family.

Stark said, "A family is more than one person."

"How about the two of us," the man asked. "Are we a family?"

"Under our bill, you are a family," Stark replied, but cautioned, "Whether that will stay or not is anybody's guess."

A look at HR 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, defines a family as "an individual and includes the individual's dependents." Going further, the term "dependent" is defined as the "meaning given such term by the Commissioner and includes a spouse."

As if health care reform was not controversial enough, the president and the authors of the bill would hardly welcome the political hot potato of same-sex marriage into the equation. Stark's response seems aimed at the definition of family outlined in the bill. The wording sounds similar to benefits one might receive from employer-based health insurance covering a married couple, common law partners or same-sex unions, yet the subsequent definition of dependents confuses rather than clarifies.

If passed, could the bill already possibly diminishing the rights of same-sex couples to affordable health insurance also be open to hostile interpretation in the future? It also raises the question if this is the best liberal step forward, what would a compromise with Blue Dog Dems and Republicans look like?

--STEVEN TAVARES

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