A Sacramento superior court judge on Thursday denied a request for a preliminary injunction against California's new and groundbreaking domestic-partnership law, which was signed by former governor Gray Davis in September. The law, which will take effect in January 2005, offers same-sex couples many of the state-level rights and protections that married couples enjoy. Judge Thomas M. Cecil denied requests by Sen. Pete Knight and Randy Thomasson of the Campaign for California Families to halt state efforts to put the law into effect. Cecil ruled that Knight and Thomasson, who have brought legal challenges to the law claiming that it violates the state's voter-approved prohibition on gay marriage, had not shown that it was "reasonably probable" that the challenges would succeed.
The preliminary injunction sought by Knight and Thomasson would have prevented the state from explaining to Californians already registered as domestic partners that the new law will significantly increase the state-level rights and duties that come with domestic partnerships. "We are extremely relieved that the court did the right thing," said Johnny Symons and William Rogers, one of the 12 couples who intervened in the lawsuit to defend the new domestic-partnership law. "As parents, we are doing everything in our power to protect our two young children. But without the protections in [the DP law], our family will never have the same security as other families."
"This lawsuit puts our family in harm's way," said Kay Smith from Riverside, Calif., who is participating in the lawsuit with her partner. "I've been with my partner for more than 20 years, but if this lawsuit succeeds, I'd be seen as a legal stranger to the woman I love in all kinds of tough situations. The people of California believe in this legislation and in fairness for everyone, but a small and vocal group of extremists insists on trying to take that away. We need and deserve to be able to get married, but this law doesn't give us marriage; it just gives us some basic protections other families take for granted."
Earlier this year, 12 California couples who are registered domestic partners and Equality California, the statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy organization that sponsored the new law, responded to lawsuits filed by Knight and Thomasson that sought to take away basic protections from same-sex couples and their families. Seven of the couples and Equality California are represented by the law office of Equality California vice president David C. Codell in Los Angeles; the American Civil Liberties Union; the ACLU affiliates in Northern California, Southern California, and San Diego; and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Five of the couples are represented by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. Other couples participating in the lawsuit include a member of the state legislature, family court judges, a filmmaker, a schoolteacher, retirees, and a clergy member.
The new law provides basic protections and imposes significant responsibilities on registered domestic partners in California. Protections for families headed by same-sex couples include: community property, mutual responsibility for debt, parenting rights and obligations such as custody and support, and the ability to claim a partner's body after death. The law does not allow for joint tax filings or certain other protections under state law and does not provide access to over 1,000 federal protections that married couples enjoy.