Friday, October 31, 2008

What happens if Prop 8 Passes

There's a lot of consternation going on about Proposition 8 in California these days with the election coming up.  Many people argue that it is not such a big deal if it passes, that Domestic Partner and Marriage Equality are basically the same thing.  On the surface, it might seem so.  However, but there are clear differences between the two.  

First off, even if they were made the same by giving the same rights to both types, there is still the matter of separate but equal which, as segregation has taught us, is separate but unequal.  As long as there are separate classes, people, governments, and institutions will continue to discriminate.  As new policies and new elected governments come about, each class will have to be separately written in to be accounted for.  Similarly, existing policies, lets say at your employer who has "Spouse" hard coded into internal applications, payroll processing systems, benefits administration will automatically support same sex marriages, but would need significant re-working to accommodate a new or separate class such as "Domestic Partner".

Aside from these indirect differences, below you will find a table of concrete differences as outlined by Let California Ring:


Area Marriage Domestic Partnership

Legal Status, Recognition, Portability
of Rights

Universally recognized in all 50 states. Includes more than 1000 federal rights and benefits. Legal structure in place to dissolve marriages and divide property equitably. Not valid outside of the state that grants it. No federal protections. Legal structure to dissolve partnership not guaranteed outside of state. May be dissolved without court ruling under some circumstances.


Universal societal understanding, honor and respect for the nature of a couple's relationship and commitment. Not universally understood because benefits vary widely by jurisdiction. Without common understanding of their meaning, domestic partnerships don't provide the same kind of honor and respect that marriages do.

Decisions, Emergencies

Spouses and family members allowed to make decisions for incompetent or disabled person absent written instructions.

Partner's right to visitation and medical decision making may not be recognized out of state.

right to visitation and medical decision making may not be recognized
out of state.

The myriad of laws in place provide security about basic family protections that are socially recognized and won't disappear. Partners may feel unsure of legal protection, and at the mercy of political whims of elected officials.
Tax Benefits Guaranteed unlimited transfers and gifts and automatic right to inherit without tax penalties. Able to file federal income taxes jointly. Large gift transfers and inheritance transactions subject to federal taxes. Federal tax returns filed separately.

Retirement, Leave,
and other Family Benefits

Eligible for Social Security, veteran's benefits and pension plan survivor benefits upon death of spouse. Entitled family leave to care for ill spouse. Do not receive Social Security, veteran's benefits and pension plan survivor benefits upon death of partner. Not guaranteed equal benefits from employers. Excluded from long-term care benefits. Not guaranteed family leave to care for ill partner.

and Child Support

Criminal penalties imposed if a spouse abandons a child or spouse. Outside of state, partners have no legal obligation to support their partner.
Immigration U.S. citizens can sponsor spouse, family members for immigration. No benefits for couples in bi-national relationships.
Common Residence Not required. Must share common residence.
Name Changes Allowed upon marriage. Not allowed without court order.


Recorded only at county level with no address on the form. Maintained by the state with a central, public and easily-searchable database.


No comments: