Same-sex marriage/domestic partnerships in California
Domestic Partnership bills: AB-26, 25 & 1338
|"...if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s 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.
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.
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:
- Make medical decisions in the hospital
or act as a conservator.
- Inherit property without a will.
- Administer an estate.
- Seek compensation for the loss of
economic or social support.
- Relocate with a domestic partner without
losing unemployment benefits.
- Use sick leave to care for a family
member or provide them with employer-based health coverage without
- File disability benefits on behalf of an
- Adopt a partner’s child using the
stepparent adoption process.
- 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.
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
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:
|"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."|
|"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:
|Despite 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. |
|The 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
It lists some of the benefits that would result from the establishment of
civil union legislation:
|Establishing 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.
Reactions to bill AB 1338:
Some conservative Christian groups responded to the bill:
|Charisma news service: They described some of the reactions from
fundamentalist Christian agencies. They:|
|Quoted "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.' " |
|Stated that the bill: "would grant gay and lesbian couples all
the rights of married couples."|
|Quoted 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, it’s a duck, even though you may
call it a goose!"|
|Quoted 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:
|If 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 . |
|Homosexual civil unions would not be "indistinguishable from
marriage," for a number of reasons:|
|They would be called by a different name.|
|Applications for civil unions and marriages would be by different
|They 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."|
|Marriage would continue to be reserved only for opposite-sex
|Couples 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.|
|Civil 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.|
|Churches, 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. |
|Paul Hetrick of Focus on the Family: On 2002-JAN-14, Hetrick:
|Wrote that: "Assembly Bill 1338...would establish civil unions
for homosexual couples as equal to traditional marriage."|
|Quoted 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.
|Dr. 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' — 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
- "Support AB 25," California Alliance for Pride and Equality,"
- Pete Winn & Kristie Rutherford, "Anti-Family Agenda Becomes Law in
California," Focus on the Family, at:
- The text of bill AB 1338, as amended on 2001-MAR-29, is online at the
Family Research Council's
web site. See:
- "Pro-Homosexual Bill Called 'Serious Threat to Marriage',"
Charisma, posted by Maranatha Christian Journal at:
- "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
- Dr. James Dobson, "Dr. Dobson's letter to
Californians on AB 1338," 2002-JAN, at:
- "Dopmestic partnership in California," Wikipedia,
updated 2007-SEP-01, at:
Copyright © 2001 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2007-SEP-12
Author: B.A. Robinson