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Defending AB 103

February 09, 2009

Re "AB 103: The wrong right," editorial, Feb. 3

I believe The Times' editorial misconstrues the intent of AB 103. This is a simple matter of tax equity that carries out the basic premise of Proposition 13 -- to prevent unexpected increases in property taxes for owners who choose to stay in their homes.

AB 103 is narrowly crafted. The exclusion is limited to two people who own a home for a minimum of one year as their principal place of residence, and only applies if one of the co-owners passes away and full ownership is granted to the survivor via trust or will. These criteria are not arbitrary; rather, they ensure fairness in the application of property reassessment.

Whether by choice or because of the law, some individuals cannot or choose not to marry or enter into a domestic partnership, and I do not believe it is fair to discriminate against them.

AB 103 is a small but significant step to protect these individuals from the possibility of losing their homes after the death of their loved ones.

Kevin de Leon

Sacramento

The writer, a Democratic Assembly member from Los Angeles, is the sponsor of AB 103.

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The editorial mistakes the problems AB 103 addresses. You correctly state that same-sex couples registered as domestic partners in California avoid property-tax increases after the death of one partner. However, you imply that the "indignity" of domestic partnership is the sole reason couples do not register. In reality, there are more tangible factors involved.

One is the difference between state and federal legal protections for same-sex couples. For example, domestic partners file a joint state income tax return. But the federal government doesn't recognize these relationships and requires partners to file separately with the IRS.

Another reason couples do not register is concern for personal safety. Because domestic-partner records are centralized with the secretary of state, anyone can request a list of all registrants. Same-sex partners, some of whom have faced years of discrimination, are forced to publicly declare their sexuality in order to gain their rights.

Same-sex surviving partners should not suffer from the inequalities of relationship recognition in California. Alice Kessler

Sacramento

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