Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Same-sex insanity

A California Assembly bill takes the wrong path on its goal toward equal property tax benefits.

February 03, 2009

It's not that AB 103 by Assemblyman Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) overreaches in its effort to extend a marriage benefit to same-sex couples. It's that it reaches in the wrong direction.

The motivation and goals are worthy: Same-sex couples whose marriages currently are not recognized by California because of Proposition 8 should in fact enjoy the same property tax benefits as other married couples. If one spouse dies and leaves a house to the other, it's not considered a transfer under the landmark Proposition 13 property tax initiative, and the home's value is not reassessed. The surviving spouse can continue paying property taxes based on the value at the time the home was bought. That's the way it is for married couples, and that's the way it should be for same-sex couples who would be deemed married but for the initiative's wrongheaded ban.

But same-sex couples already get Proposition 13 benefits -- if they register as domestic partners. Domestic partnership was a step forward for the civil rights of same-sex couples when California adopted it a decade ago, but it's now derided by some proponents of marriage equality as an indignity, much like the racist separate-but-equal doctrine of the Jim Crow era.

The Times agrees that the state should not differentiate among couples based on the gender of the partners. But AB 103 proposes to accord marriage-like property tax protection to any two people, including those who do not consider themselves "couples" and make no commitments to one another, public or private -- a brother and sister, two co-workers, two business partners. They need only own a principle residence together and live there for at least a year.

California has repeatedly extended Proposition 13 to avoid reassessing homes for property tax purposes based on familial relationships between the deceased and the survivor. First, it was married couples, and then, under follow-up ballot measures and legislation, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, foster parents and foster children, and domestic partners. Each extension made it harder for the state to collect taxes, but each also made at least a certain amount of public policy sense.

This one doesn't. It would, for the first time, extend Proposition 13 to two people whose only relationship is that they both own a stake in the same property. If the goal is to protect property relationships rather than personal ones -- a notion worth studying -- there is no good reason to limit it to two co-owners, rather than three or four. In the meantime, this bill's sweep is too narrow to get the state out of private relationships and too broad to accord same-sex couples the same recognition as other married people.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|