Davis Signs Golden State's Domestic Partner Law

September 22, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Same-sex couples in California now have nearly the same legal rights as their married counterparts, thanks to a bill signed into law by Governor Gray Davis.

While the new law doesn’t endorse “gay marriage,” it expands gay couples’ rights in areas ranging from health coverage and parental status to property ownership and funeral arrangements, according to an Associated Press report. It gives both partners in a relationship equal status as parents if they have or adopt a child together, and allows them to seek child support and alimony.

The law includes:

  • the right for people registered as domestic partners to be covered under each other’s car insurance plan
  • the right to take extended leave from work to care for a partner
  • an exemption from from estate and gift taxes
  • the authority after a partner’s death to consent to an autopsy, donate organs or make funeral arrangements
  • a responsibility for their partner’s debts.

“A family is a family not because of gender but because of values, like commitment, trust and love,” Davis said to cheers from the standing-room only crowd at San Francisco’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender center, according to the AP report.

With gays and lesbians among the most reliable Democratic voters, Davis has worked hard to cast himself as the nation’s most gay-friendly governor, especially since the campaign to recall him began. The position is hardly risky in a state where support for gay rights is strong. A recent Field Poll found 72% of California voters surveyed supported expanded rights for same-sex couples.

The law won’t take effect until January 1, 2005, giving couples that don’t want such commitments time to opt out by withdrawing their registration as domestic partners.

National gay rights advocates say the legislation puts California nearly on par with Vermont, which created a system of civil unions for same-sex couples. The main legal difference is that California same-sex couples still won’t be able to file state income taxes jointly, as is possible in Vermont.