SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)–California became the second state to award homosexual couples most of the rights of married couples when Governor Gray Davis signed a domestic partner bill into law Sept. 21.
The bill, which won’t take effect until January 2005, doesn’t use the words “marriage” or “civil union” but nonetheless grants homosexual couples who are registered with the state dozens of rights and responsibilities previously given only to married couples.
Vermont also awards most of the rights of married couples through what it terms “civil unions.”
The California law covers a wide range of areas, including health coverage and parental status. For example, homosexual couples will now be able to take extended unpaid leave to care for an ill partner.
Davis, already facing an Oct. 7 recall that is in doubt because of a court ruling, signed the bill before a large crowd at San Francisco’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender center.
“I am strongly committed to extending human rights and equal rights to everyone,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “A family is a family not because of gender but because of values, like commitment, trust and love.”
Political observers in California say Davis is attempting to solidify the homosexual vote.
“Gray Davis and [Lieutenant Governor] Cruz Bustamante have conspired to bring homosexual ‘marriage’ to California, disobeying the clear orders of the people,” Randy Thomasson, executive director of Campaign for California Families, said in a news release. “They have trashed the vote of the people and perverted the sacred institution of marriage.”
Neither Vermont’s civil unions nor California’s domestic partnerships include federal benefits such as Social Security and Medicare.
California’s law also differs slightly from Vermont’s in several aspects. Unlike in Vermont, California homosexual couples won’t be able to file joint tax returns with the state. Also, California couples will be able to register as partners by filling out an application and paying a small fee. Vermont’s law requires a civil ceremony, according to AP.
The question now is how couples in Vermont will be recognized in California, and vice versa. Lambda Legal — a homosexual advocacy group — asserts that couples who have a Vermont civil union but aren’t registered in California nonetheless will have all the rights of a California domestic partnership.
“[I]f you have entered a civil union in Vermont, you should be protected under this new California law, but you might still want to register here,” a statement on Lambda Legal’s website said.
A few politicians and pro-family supporters in California say they will file litigation against the new law, arguing it conflicts with a 2000 ballot initiative that defined marriage as solely between a man and a woman.