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California domestic partnership law upheld

[JURIST] Sacramento Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster has ruled that California's new law giving same-sex couples who register as domestic partners nearly all the legal benefits and responsibilities as married spouses does not violate Proposition 22, which defines marriage in California as only between a man and woman. Judge McMaster wrote:

[T]he parties' obvious fundamental dispute is whether a domestic partnership under the new statutes constitutes a "marriage." The court concludes that it does not. In the end, although the two relationships now share many, if not most, of the same functional attributes they are inherently distinct. And, despite the plaintiffs' arguments to the contrary, the least important of the distinctions between the two relationships is not the name given to the union. While "marriage" consists of rights and duties, the institution is not solely defined by those components. The word "marriage" imports much more than its entitlements as necessarily conceded by plaintiff....

[T]he bundle of rights, duties, benefits, and detriments of marriage have not remained constant in this state, or across our nation. The only element of "marriage" that has remained constant and immutable throughout our nation's history - until recently - has been that the legal union has consisted only of a man and a woman.

Consequently, it appears to this Court that "marriage" cannot be simply and absolutely defined by the bare bundle of rights and responsibilities conferred exclusively upon that relationship, because those components seem in continuous flux to meet the evolving mores, dynamics and demands of society. Instead, marriage is more essentially defined currently by the one historically constant element, i.e. the union between man and woman. A marriage is no less or more a marriage, when government adds or subtracts yet another restriction, duty, or benefit exclusive to the marital relationship. The relationship remains a "marriage", in name and nature, nonetheless. Thus, the title of "marriage" is much more than just a word, and it is this very special title that was preserved by Proposition 22.
Read the full opinion [PDF]. The Campaign for California Families announces its intention to appeal the decision here and Equality California has this release welcoming the ruling. Read the California
Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003
[PDF], which will take effect January 1. AP has more.

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