In pursuit of equality

Eric Astacaan is a legislative advocate
California Alliance for Pride & Equality (CAPE)

Two weeks ago, a key committee in the California Assembly endorsed a bill that would expand the rights provided under the current domestic partnership law. AB 25, by Assemblymember Carole Migden, would give registered domestic partners rights to inherit property without a will, make medical decisions, sue for wrongful death and use sick leave to care for an ill family member, among other basic protections. These are but a few of the basic rights gay and lesbian couples currently lack under state law.

Another piece of legislation, AB 1338 introduced by Assemblymember Paul Koretz, would establish civil union in California. Under this proposed measure, gay and lesbian couples will have comparable rights, protections, benefits and responsibilities presently afforded to legally married different-sex couples. Both of these bills attempt to help California move closer to fulfilling the promise of equal treatment under the law.

A little over a year ago, California passed Proposition 22 that recognized marriage only between a man and woman. The Yes on 22 campaign, however, disavowed the notion that its passage will negatively affect California’s effort to provide basic legal protection to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. Our suspicions were not unfounded. This year, Prop. 22 is being used to justify the vehement opposition to supportive measures like AB 25 and AB 1338.

Nevertheless, one of the silver linings that resulted from last year’s nasty campaign was the wider discussion of gay and lesbian families. A polling done after the initiative’s passage demonstrated that more than two-thirds of voters believe that gay and lesbian couples suffer obstacles and hardships because they lack the legal protections, benefits and responsibilities of marriage. Without these basic protections, gay and lesbian couples and our children will continue to suffer numerous obstacles and hardships that immensely harm our families and lead to serious problems and costs to third parties and our state.

These proposed bills will try to remove some of these obstacles and hardships. Both measures are pending and still have long ways to go in the arduous legislative process. They will be considered in the state Legislature in the next few months.

A significant number of lawmakers have signed on as co-authors of one or both of these measures. We call upon the other elected representatives to exercise their leadership, courage and sense of fairness to pass these critical pieces of legislation and help make California a place where all of its people are afforded the same dignity and respect.