S.C. Turns Aside Attack on Domestic Partnership Laws
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court yesterday declined to review a challenge to state laws granting registered domestic partners many of the rights of married couples.
By a vote of 6-0, with Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar absent and not participating, the justices declined review of the Third District Court of Appeal’s Jan. 27 ruling in Campaign for California Families v. Schwarzenegger, C048303. The court considered the matter at its weekly conference in San Francisco.
The lower court rejected an attack on AB 205, the broad domestic partnership law that took effect last year, and AB 25, a more limited law that took effect four years ago.
The Campaign for California Families, a Sacramento-based organization of social conservatives, continued to press the issue after the high court voted last year, also 6-0, not to review the Third District ruling in Knight v. Superior Court (Schwarzenegger), C048378. That case involved a challenge only to the broader law.
Both challenges were rejected by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster, whose rulings in both cases were affirmed by the same Third District panel, comprised of Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland and Justices Vance Raye and Richard Sims III.
The CCF argued that any expansion of domestic partnership rights beyond those enacted prior to Proposition 22, which declares that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California, constitutes an amendment of the initiative and must be approved by vote of the people.
Under pre-Proposition 22 law, registered domestic partners—who must be competent adults, share a common residence in the state, and not be married or in a domestic partnership with anyone else, and must not be related by blood in a way that would prohibit them from marrying, and† must be of the same sex unless one of them is over the age of 62 and receiving Social Security benefits—had some of the rights that belonged only to married persons.
AB 205, however, provides that domestic partners have all of the rights of married persons, except the right to file joint income tax returns or any right limited to married persons by federal law.
McMaster rejected CCF’s argument, saying that domestic partnership is not “marriage by another name,” and also held that the interpretation urged by the CCF would probably violate the state Constitution’s equal protection guarantee. The ruling infuriated conservative groups, who gathered signatures in an unsuccessful effort to recall the trial judge.
The effort was abandoned after the state high court “took the wind out of our sails,” as a leader of the endeavor said at the time, by denying review in Knight, in which the Court of Appeal said McMaster was correct in ruling that marriage and domestic partnerships, even with the expansion of rights under AB 205, are significantly different and that the latter is not a form of the former.
Los Angeles attorney David Codell, who represented Equality California, a supporter of the rights of same-sex couples, said in a statement:
“It is great news that the California Supreme Court has once again let California’s domestic partner laws remain in full force. The California Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that California public policy supports protecting all of California’s families, including same-sex couples and their children.† We also look forward to the day when California law will extend full equality to same-sex couples through marriage.”
In other action take at yesterday’s conference, the court agreed to decide whether a release of a public agency’s liability can be valid as to ordinary liability, but not as to liability for gross negligence, as ruled by this district’s Court of Appeal in City of Santa Barbara v. Superior Court (Janeway), B176810.
The case concerns an action by the parents of a developmentally disabled child who drowned in a swimming pool while participating in a city-sponsored recreational program, allegedly because a counselor was not watching when she suffered a seizure.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company