California Expands Rights for Homosexual Couples

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

Sacramento (CNSNews.com) - Effective Jan. 1, homosexual couples who register with the state of California will be granted many of the same legal rights now enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.

In a last-minute flurry of bill-signing on Sunday, Gov. Gray Davis signed a measure putting same-sex couples on the same footing as married couples when it comes to estate planning, medical decision-making, suing for wrongful death, or adopting a partner's child.

The bill, authored by openly-homosexual Assemblywoman Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) brings same-sex marriage one step closer to reality in California, said family values groups.

"In one fell swoop, Gray Davis has cheapened every marriage in the state, undermined the vote of the people, pandered to special interests, frivolously spent taxpayer money, and broken a written promise to the citizens of California," said Randy Thomasson, director of Campaign for California Families.

Just last year, some 60 percent of California voters approved a ballot initiative defining marriage in California as the union of one man and one woman, and Thomasson says the bill signed Sunday goes against the will of the voters.

"Gov. Davis is paving the way for homosexual marriage in California and America," Thomasson said.

In his signing message, the Democratic governor said expanding the benefits of domestic partnerships is about "responsibility, respect, and most of all about family -- and it's about time."

"It's ludicrous that in 2001 there is any argument at all over giving lesbian and gay couples a modicum of legal protection and recognition," said Kate Kendell, director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Migden said expanding benefits to domestic partnerships is the next logical step toward ending what she called the last permissible bastion of discrimination. Her 1999 legislation created California's Domestic Partners Registry, which now including as many as 16,000 registrants.

"This bill marks a stellar advance for lesbians and gays in California," Migden said. "It recognizes important, everyday rights...This law sends a message across the nation that California celebrates the dignity and diversity of all people, including same-sex couples."

But, Sen. Ray Haynes says the price of extending benefits to domestic partners is immense.

"The social consequences of this will be so great that we will pay the price for years to come," the Southern California Republican said. "This bill creates a legal morass that we will be sorting out for years."

The bill --supported by the American Association of Retired Persons - also entitles heterosexual couples over the age of 62 to the new domestic partner benefits.

Amid growing concern that California is headed for a swift economic downturn, taxpayer rights groups also urged Davis to veto the bill, which provides a $1.1 million tax cut to registered couples.

Lewis Uhler, of the National Tax Limitation Committee, said the millions in revenue California won't be able to collect from domestic partners could compound the state's financial woes.

With state coffers dwindling, a spokesman for the governor said Davis' scrutiny of spending bills was greater than ever this year.

"He has a reputation as someone who is tight with the tax payer dollar," spokesman Steve Maviglio said.

But, critics note, that reputation went out the door when Davis signed Migden's bill.

"By breaking his spending promise, Gray Davis has become the biggest hypocrite in the state of California," Thomasson quipped.