California Supreme Court Clears the Way for Comprehensive Domestic Partnership Protections for Same-Sex Couples

June 29, 2005 12:00 am

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SACRAMENTO — The California Supreme Court today refused to hear an appeal in a case by anti-gay activists challenging the state’s comprehensive domestic partnership protections for same-sex couples. The Court’s order cleared the only remaining hurdle to the law, which became effective in January, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

“This is a huge relief to the many same-sex couples in California who were relying on the state’s domestic partnership law to protect their families,” said Christine Sun, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. “The court has made it clear that it is s perfectly legal for the state legislature to provide same-sex couples with protections for their relationships. Many couples can rest easier knowing that there are protections for their families during times of crisis.”

Today’s order put an end to a lengthy legal battle brought by Campaign for California Families and Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund challenging the state’s domestic partner law. The anti-gay advocates claimed that the domestic partner law violated a California law that bans recognition of marriages by same-sex couples from other states. Refusing to hear an appeal, the California Supreme Court let stand a decision by a California appeals court dismissing the challenge.

Equality California, as well as 12 California couples who are registered domestic partners, petitioned the court and were allowed to participate in the lawsuits brought by the anti-gay groups. The legal team representing Equality California and the 12 couples includes the Law Office of David C. Codell, the ACLU and its affiliates in Northern California, Southern California and San Diego, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal.

AB 205, which went into effect on January 1, 2005, provides registered domestic partners with many important protections and significant responsibilities. Protections for families headed by same-sex couples include: community property, mutual responsibility for debt, parenting rights and obligations such as custody and support, and the ability to claim a partner’s body after death. The law does not allow for joint tax filing and certain other protections under state law, and does not provide access to over 1,000 federal protections that married couples enjoy.

By enacting AB 205, California became the first state in the U.S. to voluntarily provide comprehensive protections to same-sex couples. This April, Connecticut followed suit by enacting civil unions for same-sex couples there.

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