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Same-sex marriage/domestic partnerships in California

Domestic Partnership bills: AB-26, 25 & 1338

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bullet"...if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, itís a duck, even though you may call it a goose!" Ken Connor of the Family Research Council criticizing proposed California civil union legislation, 2002-JAN. 4

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Bill AB 26 of 1999:

Assemblymember Carole Migden introduced Assembly Bill 26: the Domestic Partnership Act of 1999. It created a public registry that enabled same-sex couples to register their relationship. It also allowed opposite-sex couples to register if one participant was 62 years of age or older. The bill was signed into law by Governor Gray Davis on 1999-SEP-22.

It granted few benefits: the right to visit one's partner in the hospital, and health insurance coverage for partners of public employees. Still, this law was remarkable at the time because it was the first such law enacted by a state legislature without having been ordered to by a court. 7

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Bill AB 25 of 2001:

This bill grants to registered domestic partners in California a few of the more important state benefits from the 400 or so that are automatically granted to married couples. It offers none of the 1,069 federal benefits that all married couples receive. According to the California Alliance for Pride and Equality, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender positive group, Bill AB 25 provides "registered domestic partners several basic rights that currently only married different-sex couples have under California law. These rights include the ability to:

  1. Make medical decisions in the hospital or act as a conservator.
  2. Inherit property without a will.
  3. Administer an estate.
  4. Seek compensation for the loss of economic or social support.
  5. Relocate with a domestic partner without losing unemployment benefits.
  6. Use sick leave to care for a family member or provide them with employer-based health coverage without additional taxation.
  7. File disability benefits on behalf of an incapacitated partner.
  8. Adopt a partnerís child using the stepparent adoption process.
  9. Continue health coverage for surviving domestic partners of retired government workers."

Bill AB 25 was passed by the legislature. It was signed into law by the governor on 2001-OCT-15. 1

Robert H. Knight, spokesperson for the Culture and Family Institute at Concerned Women for America (a fundamentalist Christian organization) seemed particularly distressed at the signing of AB 25. He said: "By signing this bill, Governor Davis has forced all California citizens to promote and subsidize homosexuality. This is not an extension of tolerance but a frontal assault on marriage." Homosexual rights groups seem pleased, because the law made the first steps towards giving committed homosexual and heterosexual couples equal rights. Homosexuals still pay taxes which promote and subsidize heterosexual relationships. But for the first time, gays and lesbians have started to receive some of those same rights and privileges that had previously been reserved as special rights only for opposite-sex couples. 2

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Bill AB 1338 -- The California Family Protection Act of 2001:

Paul Koretz (D- West Hollywood) sponsored bill AB 1338. The text is available online. 3 Its introduction begins by discussing the reasons favoring traditional heterosexual marriage:

bullet"The legal recognition of civil marriage by the state has been the primary and, in a number of instances, the only available source of many rights, protections, benefits, and responsibilities under California law."
bullet"The state's interest in civil marriage is to encourage close and caring families, to promote stable and lasting family relationships, and to protect family members from economic and social consequences of abandonment, divorce, the death of loved ones, and other life crises."

It then suggests that the benefits offered by the state to heterosexual married couples be extended to include those in same-sex relationships:

bulletDespite longstanding social and economic discrimination, many lesbian, gay, and bisexual Californians have formed lasting, committed, and caring relationships with persons of the same sex; these couples share lives together, participate in their communities together, and many raise children and care for family members together, just as do couples who are married under California law.
bulletThe state's interest in encouraging close and caring families, promoting stable and lasting family relationships, and protecting all family members from the economic and social consequences of abandonment, divorce, the death of loved ones, and other life crises applies equally strongly to families formed by same-sex couples as families formed by different-sex couples who marry.

It lists some of the benefits that would result from the establishment of civil union legislation:

bulletEstablishing and respecting civil unions, and providing the rights, protections, benefits, and responsibilities of being spouses in a civil union, would further California's interest in encouraging close and caring families, promoting stable and lasting family relationships, and protecting family members from economic and social consequences of abandonment, divorce, the death of loved ones, and other life crises; would protect these couples, the children they are raising, third parties, and the state against numerous harms and costs; would reduce discrimination on the bases of sex and sexual orientation; and would provide these couples the opportunity to obtain rights, protections, benefits, and responsibilities currently afforded only to different-sex couples by California's civil marriage laws.

California does not require clergy to officiate at marriages. The state does not require religious groups to grant any religious significance to civil marriages. These two factors would also be applied to civil unions.

The bill would provide that "All laws in California that prohibit discrimination on the basis of marital status...also shall prohibit discrimination based on being a spouse or spouses in a civil union." This would include matters like health insurance for spouses of employees, bereavement allowances, etc.

The bill died in the California Assembly, and was never signed into law.

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Reactions to bill AB 1338:

Some conservative Christian groups responded to the bill:

bulletCharisma news service: They described some of the reactions from fundamentalist Christian agencies. They:
bulletQuoted "pro-family groups" as describing this bill as a "most serious threat to marriage." Charisma wrote that conservative groups say that If the bill becomes law "homosexual 'civil unions' would be indistinguishable from marriage and 'as California goes, so goes the nation.' "
bulletStated that the bill: "would grant gay and lesbian couples all the rights of married couples."
bulletQuoted Ken Connor of the Family Research Council as writing that the bill would make civil unions: "legally identical to marriage, though they would not be called marriage. But if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, itís a duck, even though you may call it a goose!"
bulletQuoted Karen Holgate director of policy for the Capitol Research Institute  as saying: "Californians are now being asked to legally recognize that which they clearly have rejected. Moreover, this bill offers no authentic religious exemptions and every church, synagogue and religious organization will be forced to offer homosexual couples all of the same benefits that they currently extend to married couples." 4

All of the above opinions appear to be factually incorrect:

bulletIf approved, the bill would not threaten existing or future marriages. It would not even impact on them in any way. It would not prevent any heterosexual couple from applying for a marriage certificate. It would not prevent any heterosexual couple with a certificate from marrying. It would not remove any of the 1,500 or so rights and privileges that they are granted by the state and federal governments. All the bill would do would be to create a parallel system to marriage for same-sex, loving committed couples. It would grant some rights to "civil unionized" couples which are currently reserved only for married couples .
bulletHomosexual civil unions would not be "indistinguishable from marriage," for a number of reasons:
bulletThey would be called by a different name.
bulletApplications for civil unions and marriages would be by different forms.
bulletThey would only be available to gay and lesbian couples. Section 321(d) of the proposed act states specifically that a couple can obtain a civil union only if "The two persons otherwise are disqualified from entering into a civil marriage in California."
bulletMarriage would continue to be reserved only for opposite-sex couples.
bulletCouples in civil unions would only receive the 400 or so state's rights and privileges granted to married couples. They would not receive the additional 1,069 federal rights and privileges that married couples receive.
bulletCivil unionized couples would not get "all the rights of married couples." Civil Unions would not be "legally identical to marriage. Civil unions would not be "equal to traditional marriage." As noted above, they would only receive about one third of the privileges of married couples.
bulletChurches, synagogues, mosques, temples, gurdwaras, etc. would not be required to offer their "civil unionized" members the same benefits that they extend to married couples. Just as pastors, priests, and ministers can refuse to marry any heterosexual couple for any reason, they would be able to refuse to civil unionize a gay or lesbian couple. Religious organizations could refuse to admit gays and lesbians as members. They could ban them from couples groups. They could ban them from consideration for ordination, etc.
bulletPaul Hetrick of Focus on the Family: On 2002-JAN-14, Hetrick:
bulletWrote that: "Assembly Bill 1338...would establish civil unions for homosexual couples as equal to traditional marriage."
bulletQuoted  Alan Sears, president of the Alliance Defense Fund as saying: "the creation of civil unions would not only reconfigure the face of marriage, but would also punish those people who do not willingly go along with its demands." 5

The first comment is in error because civil unions and marriages would differ in four fundamental ways, as described above.

The second comment is more complex. Sears considers the possibility of churches and other religious organizations who hire gay or lesbian employees. Under this legislation, they would be required to extend health insurance and other benefits to all employees equally -- whether they are in a heterosexual marriage or a homosexual civil union. But, this might be a hypothetical case that might never arise in practice. It is extremely unlikely that any religious group which so firmly objects to homosexual behavior would knowingly hire a gay or lesbian in the first place. So, Sear's concern may not involve any present or future church employee.

bulletDr. James Dobson, founder and head of Focus on the Family wrote a letter to citizens of California which stated: "The radical bill is AB 1338 and it would legalize 'civil unions' ó counterfeits of marriage, different only in name to the sacred and God-ordained institution. It would give homosexual couples the same rights, protections, benefits and responsibilities as married couples. Make no mistake about it; 'civil unions' are marriages." 6

These points parallel those listed above. They are in error for the same reasons.

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  1. "Support AB 25," California Alliance for Pride and Equality," at: http://www.calcape.org/action/AB25.htm
  2. Pete Winn & Kristie Rutherford, "Anti-Family Agenda Becomes Law in California," Focus on the Family, at: http://www.family.org/cforum/
  3. The text of bill AB 1338, as amended on 2001-MAR-29, is online at the Family Research Council's web site. See: http://www.frc.org/get/lh02a1.cfm
  4. "Pro-Homosexual Bill Called  'Serious Threat to Marriage'," Charisma, posted by Maranatha Christian Journal at: http://www.mcjonline.com/
  5. "Dr. James C. Dobson Speaks Out Against Gay Marriage Bill:
    Focus on the Family Founder Rallies Christians to Stop California Legislation That Would Destroy Traditional Marriage" at: http://www.family.org/welcome/press/A0019239.html
  6. Dr. James Dobson, "Dr. Dobson's letter to Californians on AB 1338," 2002-JAN, at:  http://www.family.org/cforum/tempforum/
  7. "Dopmestic partnership in California," Wikipedia, updated 2007-SEP-01, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

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Copyright © 2001 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-SEP-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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