Under California law, when a spouse dies and the other spouse inherits the couple’s home, the state will not reassess the tax value of the couple’s home. In 2003, the California Board of Equalization (BOE) adopted a rule that extended a similar protection to same-sex couples.
When several county assessors filed a lawsuit challenging this rule in 2005, NCLR, Lambda Legal, and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP, represented Equality California and three same-sex couples to defend the rule’s validity.
The Sacramento Superior Court rejected the counties’ challenge and affirmed the rule. In the interim, the California Legislature codified the BOE rule by enacting Senate Bill 565, which became effective January 1, 2006. On October 2, 2007, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the Superior Court and held that the BOE and the Legislature did have the power to protect surviving domestic partners from dramatic and potentially devastating property tax increases.