Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging California Domestic Partnership Law that Offers Protections for Same-Sex Couples

September 9, 2004 12:00 am

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SACRAMENTO–A Superior Court judge here has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to block legal protections for same-sex couples that are to go into effect in January 2005, the American Civil Liberties Union announced today.

The court rejected claims by deceased Senator Pete Knight and Randy Thomasson of Campaign for California Families that the new domestic partnership protections guaranteed under AB 205 were in violation of Proposition 22, which states that “only marriage between a man and woman is valid in California.”

“This was a baseless and hurtful attempt to deprive lesbian and gay people of much needed protections for their families,” said Bob Kearney, Associate Director of the ACLU of Northern California. “We’re relieved the court has cleared this hurdle so that there is no question that families headed by same-sex couples will be protected when the law will go into effect in January.”

Equality California as well as 12 California couples who are registered domestic partners petitioned the court and were allowed to participate in the lawsuits filed by Knight and Thomasson. Seven couples and Equality California are represented by the Law Office of David C. Codell, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU affiliates in Northern California, Southern California and San Diego, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Lambda Legal represents five of the couples.

“We’re grateful that the court has dismissed this harmful lawsuit. But by noting the many ways that AB205 differs from full marriage rights, the court’s decision demonstrates how same-sex couples continue to be discriminated against by California law,” said ACLU attorney Christine Sun. “AB 205 is certainly a step in the right direction, but lesbian and gay Californians will only have true equality once the state allows same-sex couples to marry.”

AB 205 provides basic protections and imposes significant responsibilities on registered domestic partners in California. 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.

The ruling in the case, Knight v. Schwarzenegger, was issued late Wednesday. The decision is online at: /node/35048

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