California domestic partnerships
Activity 1999 to 2002
The path that California has taken:
During the 1990s, among the U.S. states, Vermont and California granted the
greatest number of rights and protections to same-sex couples and families.
Laws in the two states have have evolved along different paths:
In Vermont, change was driven by the courts. The state
Supreme Court found that Vermont's marriage laws conflicted with clauses in the state
Constitution that guaranteed equal protection under the law for all citizens,
and prohibited sexual discrimination in state laws. Specifically, the marriage
laws' denial of the state benefits of marriage to
committed same-sex couples was unconstitutional. They ordered the
legislature to rectify this injustice. The lawmakers created a system of
civil unions which paralleled the institution of
marriage in many ways. Same-sex couples could obtain a license, go through a
civil union ceremony, and obtain the same state benefits and obligations as
married couples have always enjoyed. However, in excess of 1,000 federal
benefits that married couples routinely receive are denied same-sex couples. Termination of the union is processed
by the state divorce court.
In California, change was initially driven by the legislature.
Recognition of, and protection for, same-sex couples has been more gradual:
A domestic partner registry was created in 1999 (AB 26).
This initially had limited usefulness. It granted hospital visitation
privileges. Partners of state employees received health benefits. However,
the registry laid the foundation for additional benefits.
In 2001, about a dozen new rights were granted, "including
the right to sue for wrongful death, to use employee sick leave to care for
an ill partner or partner's child...", etc. 1 (AB 25
& SB 1049)
In 2002, a variety of laws dealt with wills, death benefits,
and family leave for domestic partners were added. (AB 2216, AB 2777, SB 1575, SB 1661)
AB 205 became law and came into effect on 2005-JAN-01. It
gives domestic partners almost all of the state's privileges and rights that are enjoyed only by married
couples. They still receive none of the federal benefits that are automatically
given to married spouses.
Background - Cultural and legislation changes during 2001
There was a flood of gay-positive developments in the state of
California during the fall of 2001:
- 2001-NOV-5: The Salvation Army offered Domestic Partner
Benefits: The Salvation Army's Western Corporation decided to extend health-care benefits to domestic partners of its
employees. This would have brought them into compliance with a San Francisco ordinance that
prohibits a company from doing business with the city if it
discriminates against the homosexual and common-law heterosexual
partners of its employees. Col.
Phillip Needham, chief secretary of the Western Corporation
"This decision reflects our concern for the health of our
employees and those closest to them, and is made on the basis of
strong ethical and moral reasoning that reflects the dramatic
changes in family structure in recent years."
Some responses to their decision:
- The gay-positive Human Rights Campaign called it a "prudent
decision" and a "welcome development."
- Fundamentalist Christian groups were unanimous in their opposition:
- Dr. James Dobson, president of Focus on the
Family, responded negatively. He expressed the belief that
extending health care to the children of partners of employees adversely
affects the long-term welfare of children. Dobson said:
"Needham's statement reveals that the
decision to accommodate homosexual employees is based on cultural
considerations, rather than on what is right and ethical - and of
course, on the impact of federal money. We are not talking about
hatred for individuals; we are talking about policies that will
affect generations to come. What is at stake here is an agenda that
involves the welfare of children, the definition of marriage, the
constitution of the family, and credentials for pastors and priests."
Dr. James Dobson continued:
"The Salvation Army is the first evangelical church, that I am
aware of, to cave in on this contentious issue. This decision will
have enormous influence on other Christian organizations and
entities that have tried to hold the line on moral and family
policies. The Salvation Army has (also) confirmed that this policy
will apply, not only to the 13 Western states as the media has
reported, but also to the entire organization."
There seem to be a number of factual
errors in this statement: The money issue is not over federal grants, but
over municipal money. The policy did not affect all of The Salvation Army,
but only the 13 Western states.
- Ed Vitagliano, a spokesman for the American Family
think that all evangelical Christians who love God's Word and who
have trusted The Salvation Army to be faithful to the clear
indications ... and clear principles of God's Word about same-sex
relationships [are] very, very sad that this has happened."
- Scott Lively, spokesperson for the American Family
Association of California, said:
"This is driven by the
gay-activist movement. It has no other purpose but to legitimize
homosexuality in American society."
- Karen Holgate, legislative director for the Capitol
Resource Institute in Sacramento, CA, said:
another Christian organization falls or bows to this kind of
pressure, it just applies that much more to others."
- Peter LaBarbera, associate director of the Culture and
Family Institute in Washington, D.C. said:
"Homosexual activists are keen on seeing everybody embrace
homosexuality. If they see that a major Christian organization with
a Bible-based mission is willing to swallow the gay agenda, then
they will be more encouraged to go after every other Christian
organization in this nation." 2,3
In response to a massive outpouring of opposition, The Salvation Army reversed its decision.
On NOV-12, they abandoned what they called their "concern for the health of
our employees and those closest to them," and once more discriminated
against their employees' unmarried partners and their
children by withholding health benefits from them.
- 2001-NOV-26: Oakland requires suppliers to grant domestic
partner benefits: The Oakland City Council followed the
lead of San Francisco and unanimously passed an
ordinance that requires all suppliers doing more than
$25,000 business with the city annually to grant domestic partner
benefits to all employees -- married or not; same-sex or
- Pete Winn & Kristie Rutherford, "Anti-Family Agenda Becomes Law in
California," Focus on the Family, at:
- Fred Jackson and Jody Brown, "Salvation Army to Offer 'Domestic
Partner' Benefits: Decision Hailed by Pro-Homosexual HRC, Condemned by
Pro-Family Groups," Agape Press at:
- Stuart Shepard, "Dobson Laments Salvation Army's Decision," Focus on the Family, at:
- "Domestic partner plan to include contractors," San
Francisco Chronicle, 2001-NOV-29, at:
Copyright © 2001 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2008-JUN-26
Author: B.A. Robinson