Two Cheers for California's Domestic Partner Ruling
August 9, 2005
California's high court did the right thing for the state's 30,000 registered domestic partners when it ruled in favor of a lesbian couple that asserted the right to the same treatment as married couples at and expensive country club golf course.
The ruling affirmed the state's Domestic Partner Act, which went into effect in January. Yet interestingly, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has argued FOR domestic partnership benefits, but AGAINST gay marriage. Lockyer says gay couples have most of the rights of married couples under the state's domestic partner law (which also applies to heterosexual couples, but only, oddly enough, if one partner is at least 62 years old.) The court sidestepped the issue of whether marital status is a protected category under civil rights law.
The upshot is that lesbians can golf together in California, but the state still has a law on the books that defends the sacred bonds of marriage by defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. (That defense of marriage law--fervently supported by social conservatives--is now on appeal after a lower court judge declared it unconstitutional.)
The justice of the particular claim in this case is hard to ignore.
The plaintiff paid $18,000 for a golf membership at a country club that allows members' spouses and children to use the course on a free, unlimited basis--and even lets family members inherit memberships. To say that a lesbian couple should pony up twice $18,000 when a family of ten can let all its kids golf for free is discrimination plain and simple.
It's also bad business, which is why California's domestic partner law is clearly the wave of the future. Already 83 percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies. And another 40 percent provide domestic partner health benefits.
The religious right can go on "defending" marriage as loudly as it likes. But if gay and lesbian couples (and unmarried-but-committed 62-year-olds) are protected from discrimination, it takes the wind out of the anti-gay movement's sails.