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Redwood City Family Lawyer Discusses Proposition 8: Marriage v. Domestic Partnerships

Redwood City Family Lawyer Discusses Proposition 8: Marriage v. Domestic Partnerships

As Californians get ready to vote for president next week, they are also considering whether to vote for or against Proposition 8. Proposition 8 is a constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman. In 2008, California’s Supreme Court overturned a similar law as being unconstitutional. Currently, gays and lesbians can be married in California. If Proposition 8 passes, gays and lesbians will only be able to obtain domestic partnerships under the laws passed in 2003 and 2005.

You might be wondering what the differences between domestic partnerships and marriages are, so here at Sagaria Law, we’ve decided to post a little primer, so you can make an informed decision for yourself about whether the two are equal or unequal, and if that makes a difference in your vote.

Married couples have the same basic rights and protections in all fifty states. Someone can get married in New Mexico, move to Florida, and then move to California, and their marriage is valid in all fifty states. In addition to the multitudes of benefits extended under state laws, married couples receive tax benefits, and death benefits under Social Security. Married couples can divorce, receive spousal support and child support, and in California, their property is subject to division under community property laws.

Domestic Partnerships:
Domestic partners in California are subject to many of the same rights and protections and obligations as married couples, including those under probate law, employment law and discrimination law, provided those are California state laws. This means that in California, any right extended to a married couple under California law, has to be extended to a domestic partnership. Furthermore, domestic partnerships are subject to the community property rules and support obligations should the relationship dissolve. The parties must even file a formal termination petition, just as married couples do.

Domestic partnerships are limited to two classes of people: same sex couples, and opposite sex couples over age 62 receiving Social Security.

The biggest difference between domestic partnerships and marriage is recognition, by the federal government and by other states. Domestic partnerships are not valid in all fifty states. So a couple may be a registered domestic partnership in California, but if they move to another state, they will have no rights whatsoever. Furthermore, the federal government does not recognize any type of domestic partnership for any reason.

Marriage, on the other hand, is supposed to be recognized in all fifty states under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. However, many states have enacted laws that do not recognize marriage between same sex couples, so the picture is complicated by that development. Additionally, at the federal level, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act which recognizes marriage as between one man and one woman. The future of same sex marriage is unknown, both in terms of California’s laws and what other states or the federal government may do, but one thing is certain: the issue is far from moot.

If you are interested in learning more about dissolving your marriage or domestic partnership, be in same or opposite sex, contact our office today to set up your free consultation. The consultation is thirty minutes long, and is available either by phone or at one of our six Northern California offices: Salinas, Monterey, San Jose, Redwood City, Fremont, and Sacramento. We have a team of talented and experienced family law attorneys who can discuss your specific concerns and situation, and give you advice on how to proceed. Call today to schedule your free consultation 1-800-941-6730 or visit