Sacramento Judge Grants Marriage Rights to Same-sex Domestic Partnerships

A Sacramento Superior Court judge Wednesday upheld two laws granting the same rights of traditional marriage to same-sex domestic partnerships but stopped short of calling it “marriage.”

The Judge Loren E. McMaster concluded that unless something is called “marriage,” it doesn’t conflict with a California voter initiative passed in 2000, defining marriage to be between one man and one woman.

"The parties' obvious fundamental dispute is whether a domestic partnership under the new statutes constitutes a marriage. The court concludes it does not. In the end, although the two relationships now share many, if not most, of the same functional attributes they are inherently distinct," McMaster wrote in his ruling.

"Marriage has been the keystone of civilized society, predating governmental regulation. It has been in society's interest to maintain the institution of marriage for a broad spectrum of contemporary societal goals ranging from certainty in property rights to procreation," the judge said.

Two conservative groups who were plaintiffs in the cases, California Families v. Gray Davis and Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund v. Arnold Schwarzenegger, argued that the two legislative bills in question, AB 25 and AB 205, violates Prop 22. by creating homosexual marriage under a different label.

“The clear and plain reading of these marriage-attacking bills was to create homosexual marriage by another name,” said Randy Thomasson, Executive Director of Campaign for Families.

Under AB 205, domestic partners “shall have the same rights, protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law…as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.”

The essence of rights given to same-sex domestic partnerships and heterosexual marriages are the same, suggested Thomasson.

“When the people voted for Proposition 22, they said everything about marriage is naturally for a married man and woman,” he said. “No matter what they’re called, the rights of marriage exclusively belong to a husband and wife. It’s that beautiful and that simple. Anyone who claims the rights of marriage without being a married man and woman is robbing marriage of its uniqueness and parading a negative role model for impressionable children.”

Outside conservative groups are also criticizing the ruling.

"This whole debate is cheap semantics. Marriage is being left with a hollow definition," Traditional Values Coalition lobbyist Benjamin Lopez told The Sacramento Bee.

Rena Lindevaldsen, Senior Litigation Counsel of Liberty Counsel, which represented Campaign for California Families last month in Sacramento Superior Court, promised an appeal.

“We…are confident that the appellate court will recognize that the voters, in approving Proposition 22, intended to protect not the mere label of ‘marriage’ but the very essence of marriage for a husband and wife,” she stated.

Meanwhile, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer, who is reviewing consolidated challenges to California's marriage law has set Oct. 8 as the deadline for California Attorney General Bill Lockyer to file a brief explaining why the state's ban on same-sex marriage is constitutionally sound. Kramer also set Oct. 26 as the date for the next case-management conference.