Domestic Partnerships, Post Same-Sex Marriage

Unless you’ve been abstaining from news lately, you know that last month the U.S. Supreme Court decided that all couples in America have a fundamental right to marry, regardless of sexual orientation.

The Obergefell v. Hodges decision was announced right before the annual San Francisco Pride festivities. SF Pride was even more exuberant than usual, as thousands of people took to the streets and celebrated the hard-fought constitutional victory.

However, in much of the hoopla surrounding the celebration of marriage equality, the future of California’s domestic partnership law has been overlooked.

Before marriage was available to all, California attempted to remedy the situation in 1999 by offering a domestic partnership registry. The law initially allowed registered domestic partners only a few of the privileges associated with “traditional” marriage, including hospital visitation and the right to be next of kin for a deceased partner.

In 2012, the state Legislature expanded the rights associated with domestic partnerships to include all of the rights associated with marriage under state law, including the right to make health care decisions and the right to take the other person’s last name. However, to qualify for a registered domestic partnership, a couple is required to be same sex or, if opposite sex, have at least one partner older than the age of 62.As of today, this is still the law in California. Obergefell calls into question the state of California’s domestic partnership law: If marriage is available to all, why continue with domestic partnerships?

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