Law that Offers Protections to Same-Sex Couples Likely to Survive Challenge

(Sacramento, CA, December 18, 2003) — Today, a Sacramento Superior Court refused to stand in the way of a new state law that offers same-sex couples legal protections and imposes many responsibilities for their relationships. Judge Thomas M. Cecil denied requests by Senator Pete Knight and Randy Thomasson of Campaign for California Families to issue a preliminary injunction, which would prevent the state from putting the law into effect.

Judge Cecil ruled that Knight and Thomasson, who have brought legal challenges to the law claiming that it violates Proposition 22, had not shown that it was “reasonably probable” that the challenges would succeed.

The preliminary injunction sought by Knight and Thomasson would have prevented the state from explaining to Californians already registered as domestic partners that the new law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2005, will significantly increase the state law rights and duties that come with domestic partnerships. The new law is much closer to equality for same-sex couples.

“We are extremely relieved that the Court did the right thing,” said Johnny Symons and William Rogers, one of the 12 couples who intervened in the lawsuit to defend the new domestic partnership law. “As parents, we are doing everything in our power to protect our two young children. But without the protections in AB 205, our family will never have the same security as other families.”

“This lawsuit puts our family in harm’s way. I’ve been with my partner for more than 20 years, but if this lawsuit succeeds, I’d be seen as a legal stranger to the woman I love in all kinds of tough situations,” said Kay Smith from Riverside, Calif., who is participating in the lawsuit with her partner. “The people of California believe in this legislation and in fairness for everyone, but a small and vocal group of extremists insists on trying to take that away. We need and deserve to be able to get married, but this law doesn’t give us marriage; it just gives us some basic protections other families take for granted.”

Earlier this year, 12 California couples who are registered domestic partners and Equality California (EQCA), the statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization and AB 205’s sponsor, entered into lawsuits filed by Knight and Thomasson that sought to take away basic protections from same-sex couples and their families. Seven couples and Equality California are represented by the Law Office of EQCA Vice-President David C. Codell in Los Angeles, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU affiliates in Northern California, Southern California and San Diego, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Five of the couples are represented by Lambda Legal.

Other couples participating in the lawsuit include a member of the state legislature, family court judges, a filmmaker, a schoolteacher, retirees and a clergy member.

“The ruling today is a victory not only for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, but for all fair-minded Californians who believe that families should be treated equally under the law, regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of family members,” stated Geoffrey Kors, Executive Director of Equality California (EQCA), California’s state-wide LGBTQ group which sponsored the domestic partner bill.

“By enacting AB205 the California legislature has recognized that gay people in committed relationships should not be denied protections for their relationships,” said David Codell, lead attorney for the intervenors. “It’s great news for all the California couples who need these protections that the court does not think challenges to the law are likely to succeed.”

“AB 205 is not just about rights – it is also about responsibilities,” noted NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “A key role of government is to help support the stability of all families by clearly identifying the rights and responsibilities that family members have towards one another. Quite simply, this is what AB 205 does.”

Signed into law by former Governor Gray Davis on September 19, the new law 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.

About Equality California (formerly CAPE)
Founded in 1998, Equality California (formerly CAPE) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to ensure the dignity, safety, equality and civil rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians. Equality California is one of the largest and fastest growing statewide LGBTQ organizations in the country. We can be contacted through our website at www.eqca.org.

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.