Last week Colorado Governor Bill Ritter signed House Bill 1260, the Designated Beneficiary Agreement Act, a bill allowing same-sex couples to obtain some of the legal rights of marriage. Since it has some of the rights of marriage, albeit not the name, some are calling it Marriage Light.
The Designated Beneficiary Agreement Act goes into effect on July 1, 2009 and permits two unmarried adults to designate each other as beneficiaries through a single form. Previously, many of the rights under the Act were only available contractually through legal documents, such as wills and powers of attorney, but now they are available without the additional cost of an attorney. The Act has also added several rights not previously available under Colorado law, such as the ability to file a wrongful death lawsuit on a partner's behalf.
While this is one of those "baby steps" I am so fond of talking about, we also need to remember that the Colorado state legislature previously failed to approve of civil unions for same-sex partners in 2006, and that same year voters passed a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
The full list of rights provided by the Designated Beneficiary Agreement Act entitles couples to:
- Certain financial protections regarding ownership of real and personal property
- Be a proxy decision-maker or a surrogate decision-maker to make other medical decisions for the other designated beneficiary
- Be a conservator or guardian for the other designated beneficiary
- Be treated as a beneficiary under the other designated beneficiary's benefits for life insurance
- Be treated as a dependent under the other designated beneficiary's benefits for health insurance if the designated beneficiary's employer elects to provide coverage to designated beneficiaries
- Have the right to visit the other designated beneficiary in the hospital or in a nursing home
- Inherit through intestate succession upon the death of the other designated beneficiary
- Have standing to sue for wrongful death of the other designated beneficiary
- Act as an agent to make, revoke, or object to anatomical gifts involving the other designated beneficiary
- Direct the disposition of the other designated beneficiary's last remains