The creation of domestic partnerships was intended to provide all committed couples, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, the opportunity to obtain essential rights and protections. Throughout the years since, the rights provided to same-sex couples have evolved, and thus the meaning of domestic partnerships has also transformed.
California Family Code Section 297 defines a domestic partnership, and states the rights and benefits afforded to such a status. Under Cal Fam. Code Section 297, when two adults decide to enter a domestic partnership they must BOTH file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the Secretary of State, after meeting the following requirements:
- Neither person is married or in another domestic partnership;
- There is no blood relation between the two persons;
- Both persons are 18 years of age (but can be waived if all other elements are met);
- Both persons are members of the same sex OR if persons of the opposite sex, then at least one person must be over the age of 62; and
- Both persons are capable of consenting.
On January 1, 2005, The California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003 went into effect, which granted the same rights and duties of marriage to individuals in domestic partnerships in the state of California. The legislative intent behind this act was to provide all committed couples, whether in a domestic partnership or marriage, the same rights and opportunities. This act was to apply to all California domestic partnerships, whether they were entered into before or after January 2005.
Additionally, another key decision has been made and since 2013 the state of CA has consistently issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Therefore, today in CA, all same-sex couples can enter into a marriage or domestic partnership, and receive the same state rights and benefits. Thus, if same-sex couples can enter into domestic partnerships or marriage and receive the same rights, then which is the better union to enter? While the answer to this question is not clear, there may be strong motives leading same-sex couples towards marriage rather than domestic partnerships today in California:
- Marriage is universally accepted and recognized among states and the federal government, whereas domestic partnerships are not.
- Marriage is recognized with a higher degree of understanding and respect in societal values universally throughout the country compared to domestic partnerships.
- Because there is not a nationwide mandate regarding benefits, when traveling into another state, your rights and benefits within a domestic partnership may not recognized.
Whether you are in a domestic partnership or a same sex marriage Family Law Center has attorneys and mediators with compassion and experience for your LGBT needs.