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New next-of-kin registry lets partners be notified of accidents
Columbus--A new state law offers LGBT people another way to ensure the security of their relationships.
The Next of Kin Registry, which took effect September 8, allows anyone with an Ohio driver’s license or identification card to list two people to be contacted in case of an accident or emergency.
The database, which by law is not a public record, can only be accessed by authorized Bureau of Motor Vehicles employees and law enforcement officials.
Members of same-sex couples may list their partners as their primary next-of-kin contact in case of emergency, although minors must have at least one of the two contacts be a parent or legal guardian.
“The next-of-kin registry prevents disconnected family members from overriding the wishes of the individual, which we know happens all too often,” said Mika Major, director of programs for the Cleveland LGBT Center. “This is a key step to recognition of the validity of LGBT relationships.
While the registry would not grant decision-making power in the case of a conflict between an accident victim’s same-sex partner and biological family, it could ensure that the partner is the one who gets notified after the accident.
“Should someone not have the proper paperwork in place, this serves as a back-up to still have an individual’s wishes carried out,” Major noted.
The database was created by House Bill 392, passed in the spring. While its benefits to same-sex couples are significant, they are also mostly accidental. Of the 22 representatives who sponsored the legislation, only four are Democrats, although some of the Republicans who put their names on the bill are from gay-friendly areas of the state or have supported other pro-gay legislation.
The registry is accessible through the bureau’s website at http://bmv.ohio.gov, or forms can be filled out and mailed in. Changes can be made at any time.
A menu on the bureau’s web site for “Relationship” includes “Partner” as an option.
However, Major points out, the registry does not guarantee that a same-sex partner will have the final say in care and disposition of there is a conflict with the biological family.
A power of attorney, drafted by a lawyer, would be required to back up the rights of the partner. Powers of attorney can be recorded with the county recorder, in which case they become public documents. Or, they can simply be carried in case of emergency or kept safe to prove to a hospital, for instance, that the partner has the right to make decisions.
The LGBT statewide group Equality Ohio is recommending that couples that have powers of attorney note this when signing up for the next-of-kin registry, by adding the letters POA to their names.
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