Thursday, September 3, 2009

State Assembly Approves Law Clarifying Rights of Same-Sex Couples Married Outside of California

A press release from Equality California:

The State Assembly passed the Marriage Recognition and Family Protection Act, SB 54, today in a 44 to 27 vote. The bill, introduced by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by Equality California (EQCA), clarifies the rights of same-sex couples married outside of California.

The Marriage Recognition and Family Protection Act underscores that same-sex couples married before the passage of Proposition 8 are entitled to full recognition as married spouses in California, regardless of whether they married in California or out of state. That rule is consistent with existing law, including the California Supreme Court's prior holding in In re Marriage Cases that California cannot treat marriages differently based on whether they were performed in state or out of state.

The bill also confirms that same-sex couples married outside of California after November 5, 2008, must be given all of the rights, protections and responsibilities of spouses under California law, with the sole exception of the designation of "marriage."

"We are thrilled that the Assembly has passed this vital bill, which provides much needed clarity for same-sex couples married out of state who deserve to know where their families stand,” said Geoff Kors, Executive Director for Equality California. "However, restoring the freedom to marry is the only way to ensure that all Californians are treated with dignity and fairness.”

Although Proposition 8 prevents California from designating same-sex couples who marry in another jurisdiction on or after November 5, 2008, as "married," the Court's decision in Strauss v. Horton requires the state to give those couples all of the substantive protections of marriage.

“When California offered marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2008, spouses who were already married in another state or country were prohibited from re-marrying in California,” said Senator Leno. “Now those couples and their families are in limbo because their rights and protections under law are not clear. This legislation ensures that same-sex couples are protected by existing California law that recognizes all marriages equally, regardless of where they are performed.”

SB 54 will next proceed to the State Senate for a vote to concur in amendments made in the Assembly. It will then head to the Governor’s desk.

To find out more information about EQCA's legislation, visit www.eqca.org/legislation.

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