Traditional-marriage advocates who are taking their battle against California’s new domestic-partnership law to the streets and the courts face several important deadlines next month.
The law, which outgoing California Gov. Gray Davis signed Sept. 19, gives unprecedented marital rights to homosexual couples who register as domestic partners. The state is expected to phase in the law over the next year.
But traditional-values groups say the law creates “counterfeit marriages” and overrides the voter-approved Proposition 22, which says that in California, only marriages between a man and a woman are valid.
California Sen. Pete Knight and Assemblyman Ray Haynes are mobilizing supporters to collect about 374,000 signatures by mid-December to force a public referendum on the law in March.
In addition, Mr. Knight and the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund have filed a lawsuit to block the law in a state Superior Court in Sacramento. A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Dec. 12, said Robert Tyler, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund.
Separately, the Campaign for California Families (CCF), which also is trying to block the law, has a hearing on Dec. 4 in Los Angeles Superior Court.
“The only thing this [domestic-partnership] law doesn’t give is the name ‘marriage.’ … Every other right, privilege or obligation that is attributed to marriage anywhere in the California statute is now also for domestic partners,” said Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel, which represents the CCF and several individuals who say their rights as Proposition 22 voters have been infringed.
Countering the signature drive and lawsuits are numerous homosexual and civil rights groups, such as Equality California, the Center for Lesbian Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union.
“California voters believe that domestic partners and their families should be treated fairly under the law, and we are confident that we will prevail,” said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California.
Last week, Massachusetts lawmakers decided to postpone until February their debate on a bill to define traditional marriage in the state constitution. The state’s Supreme Judicial Court is deliberating a lawsuit filed by seven homosexual couples seeking civil “marriage” licenses.
In Nebraska, U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon on Nov. 10 cleared the way for a lawsuit challenging a state constitutional amendment, which upholds traditional marriage and invalidates domestic partnerships. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which said that the amendment that voters approved in 2000, discriminates against homosexual couples.
On Nov. 5, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg ruled that seven homosexual couples were not deprived of any legal rights to “marry.” The plaintiffs are expected to appeal the decision.
In Arizona, a homosexual couple seeking to “marry” is expected to appeal a lower-court decision by Dec. 7 to the Arizona Supreme Court. Plaintiffs Harold Standhardt and Tod Keltner had argued that this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down bans on homosexual sex, implied a right to same-sex “marriage.” On Oct. 8, the Arizona Court of Appeals disagreed, saying that same-sex “marriage” is not a constitutionally protected right.
In Wisconsin, Gov. James E. Doyle, a Democrat, vetoed a bill upholding traditional marriage, calling it divisive and duplicative of current law. Lawmakers passed the bill, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, with a veto-proof majority but last week failed by one vote to override the veto.