FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | September 19, 2003
The National Center for Lesbian Rights Hails Signing of California's Historic Domestic Partnership Bill
(San Francisco, CA, September 19, 2003) — The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) hailed today's historic signing by Governor Davis of AB 205, a groundbreaking bill that would grant same-sex couples most of the rights, benefits, and responsibilities granted to spouses under state law. AB 205, the California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003, was authored by Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg and sponsored by the state's leading LGBT advocacy organization Equality California (EQCA). NCLR assisted in drafting AB 205, along with Lambda Legal.
"This is a historic day, not only for same-sex couples in California, but for every human being committed to a society that strengthens and supports families," said Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "For decades, LGBT people have struggled to protect our relationships and our children from the devastating impact of legal discrimination. Today, the State of California has taken the long overdue step of changing the law to support, rather than harm, our families."
By enacting AB 205, California has become the second state to eliminate most forms of discrimination against same-sex couples under state law. The first was Vermont, which enacted a law establishing "civil unions" for same-sex couples in 2000. Being in a domestic partnership or a civil union does not confer any of the 1049 rights and responsibilities given to heterosexual spouses under federal law, including social security and immigration benefits, joint filing of federal taxes, the ability to inherit a spouse's 401(k) account without incurring tax penalties, federal retirement and pension benefits, and many others.
"We are overjoyed by the historic passage of this critical civil-rights bill for same-sex couples and their families," said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of EQCA. "We thank Assemblymember Goldberg for her incredible leadership, and each of the legislators who stood up for civil rights by voting for this bill."
AB 205 was co-authored by the other members of California's Legislative LGBT Caucus, Senator Sheila Kuehl, Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Christine Kehoe, Assemblymember Mark Leno, and Assemblymember John Laird. Other co-authors included Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson, Senate President Pro Tem Burton, and Assemblymember Paul Koretz, among others.
AB 205 builds on prior legislation, authored by former Assemblymember Carole Migden in 1999, establishing a statewide domestic partnership registry. Since 1999, the rights of domestic partners in California have expanded to include a growing number of rights and benefits. For a timeline and summary of laws affecting domestic partners in California, see "The Evolution of California's Domestic Partnership Law," at www.nclrights.org.
When AB 205 becomes effective on January 1, 2005, registered domestic partners in California will receive nearly all of the state-conferred rights, benefits, and responsibilities currently granted only to married spouses. These include: decision-making authority for funeral arrangements and disposition of remains; community property; custody provisions and child-support obligations; access to divorce court; and death benefits for surviving partners of firefighters and police officers. The bill will also require mutual responsibility for debt, disclosures of conflicts-of-interest, and joint assessment of income for determining eligibility for state government-assistance programs.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.