August 13, 1997

The Fluid Reciprocal Beneficiary Status
So far, 172 Couples Have Tied The Somewhat Fuzzy Knot!

As of 3:15 p.m. today, August 13, 172 Hawaii couples have tied the "reciprocal beneficiary knot".

Governor Ben Cayetano let Hawaii's Reciprocal Beneficiary Law take effect without his signature, as of July 1, 1997.  Just what the law means is not entirely clear -- it is 92 pages long with numerous references to other parts of Hawaii's law code.  The references are often just to section numbers.  So, understanding many of the references requires the study of many more pages of laws.

In late July Hawaii's Bar Association had Dan Foley, the attorney who has worked with the same-gender marriage case since 1991, brief themselves on what the RB Law includes.  Especially for the United States it is an advanced "domestic partnership" status, including at least 50 benefits of marriage (such things as hospital visitation rights, the right to inherit property from one another, etc.).   It's a good first step in the direction of full equality (to see how far we have to go, there are at least 1,049 references to marital status in federal law!).

As with all law in the U.S., it may not be clear what a law means until the courts have had years to interpret it.  Today, for technical reasons of exact references, Hawaii's Attorney General opined that a key benefit (access to health insurance through employers who already give health insurance to spouses) can be denied In Hawaii, companies do not have to offer health insurance to employee spouses and children but they must offer it to employees.  The RB Law was intended to say that IF AN EMPLOYER OFFERS HEALTH INSURANCE TO SPOUSES THE EMPLOYER MUST ALSO OFFER IT TO RECIPROCAL BENEFICIARIES.

At the risk of distracting people from the main prize (full equality with the freedom to marry), I'd like to recommend a private
company that is keeping tabs on the meaning of "reciprocal beneficiaries":
                        Pride Insurance & Financial Services, Inc.
                        220 South King Street, Suite 1750
                        Honolulu, HI 96813
                        Tel:  (808) 566-0505
                        Fax:  (808) 531-9915

They have a 9-page summary of the "reciprocal beneficiary" status, as well as with separate advice for in-state and out-of-state folks.  They have the full 92-page act itself in one of their information packets (good luck in reading that!).  Right now they are creating a web site to contain at least some of this information.  Given the still-fluid interpretation of the act, they are providing a great public service of staying on top of the RB Act.  When their WEB site is up and running, I'll let you know by E-mail.

The President of Pride Insurance & Financial Services is Robert Jenkins, M.D., a leading HIV and AIDS specialist recently returned to Hawaii after 10 years of medical practice in Los Angeles.  Robby is one of the strongest supporters of same-gender marriage.  For the record, I have no financial connection whatsoever with Pride Insurance and Financial Services, nor do I anticipate any such connection in the future.

In the meantime, Foley and the team at Marriage Project - Hawaii are concentrating on the still-pending Hawaii Supreme Court decision on same-gender marriage (the court rejected the state's request to delay its decision until after Nov. 1998, but gave no sign of when they might make the decision).

                        Tom Ramsey
                        Marriage Project - Hawaii

P.S.  Donations to Marriage Project Hawaii are tax-deductible, and should be sent to PO Box 11690, Honolulu, HI 96828.  MPH and its allied NON-tax-deductible arm (Friends of MPH) are THE Hawaii organizations endorsed by Dan Foley to raise and disburse funds on behalf of the on-going court case Baehr v. Miike.  MPH and Friends of MPH are endorsed by such national organizations as NGLTF, HRC, and LLDEF.

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