For the past two years, California law has allowed same-sex couples to legally register as domestic partners, entitling them to hospital visitation rights and extending health insurance benefits to the partners of government employees. A handful of other states and local governments have also done this, as have dozens of private companies that offer benefits to the domestic partners of their employees.
California lawmakers now have the chance to complete the job they started two years ago by approving a bill introduced by Assembly member Carole Migden (D-San Francisco).
AB 25 would require employers to make available the same benefits--such as the ability to buy health insurance for registered domestic partners--as they give spouses.
It would also give a partner many of the rights a spouse has in order to make decisions about such matters as medical treatment and control over financial assets when the other partner is unable to make them.
Finally, Migden's bill would allow registered partners to recover damages for wrongful death--something only family members can do now.
The measure passed the Assembly in May, and last week it cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Backers are hopeful that it will soon land on Gov. Gray Davis' desk. Davis, who signed the domestic registry into law in 1999, has indicated that he may sign this one as well. Even some of the many Californians who oppose same-sex marriage recognize that bonds of love and commitment transcend sexual orientation, and they see injustice in failing to take those bonds into account when assigning benefits and rights.
A growing roster of blue chip companies--Ford Motor Co., General Motors, the Walt Disney Co., Boeing Co. and IBM Corp. among them--now voluntarily offer domestic partner benefits.
It's not much of a leap to think that domestic partners should also have the right to make legal decisions on each other's behalf.
We urge Davis to sign AB 25 and make these nods toward fairness in the law.