TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Monday, March 20, 2006

Speaking of Gaps in Compensation Law

A subject that comes up fairly often in teaching wrongful death (at least for me) is the exclusivity of the categories of potential plaintiffs; that obviously ties in with the humanizing torts discussion in the last week or two (look under "Teaching Torts" category for more on that).

Now comes a new paper from the Women's Rights Law Reporter by Nancy Knauer (Temple), The September 11 Relief Efforts and Surviving Same-Sex Partners: Reflections on Relationships in the Absence of Legal Recognition.  The abstract:

The criteria established by federal, state, and private relief efforts to assist the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks present a unique opportunity to examine the status of same-sex relationships in the United States. In the absence of uniform relationship recognition, surviving same-sex partners continue to struggle with a loss that legally is not cognizable. The stories from the September 11 survivors illustrate that a surviving partner is a legal stranger, who often must reconfigure her relationship with her partner to fit within the various legal categories where relief or compensation might be forthcoming. These legal categories generally do not provide recovery in recognition of the nature of her relationship with her partner, but rather in spite of the nature of the relationship. Loss experienced by a surviving same-sex partner in the United States continues to unfold against the backdrop of a persistent morality discourse that demonizes same-sex relationships and enshrines such sentiments in legislation and citizens' initiatives designed to protect traditional marriage. A surviving same-sex partner is denied the basic luxury of grieving because she must navigate a complicated legal system offering pockets of partial recognition and, at times, resort to litigation. The highly polarized nature of the debate regarding the recognition of same-sex relationships means that her very loss is contested and her mourning politicized.

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