9th Circuit Court of Appeals Strikes Down California’s Gay Marriage Ban

 The argument over whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry is raging.  Seven states have now approved gay marriage, and the President of the United States has taken a stand in favor the right of same-sex couples to marry.  On the other hand, North Carolina passed a law banning same-sex marriage, and other states are attempting to do the same.  In California, voters passed Proposition 8, limiting marriage to the union of one man and one woman.  However, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently struck down that law on the basis that depriving Gay people of the right to marry is unconstitutional. 

Here is an excerpt of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision, explaining it’s ruling:

“We emphasize the extraordinary significance of the official designation of ‘marriage.’  That designation is important because ‘marriage’ is the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults.  A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but to the couple desiring to enter into a committed lifelong relationship, a marriage by the name of ‘registered domestic partnership’ does not.

. . . All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same-sex couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation of ‘marriage,’ which symbolizes state legitimization and societal recognition of their committed relationships.  Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.  The Constitution simply does not allow for ‘laws of this sort.'”  *

 This divisive issue seems destined for the U.S. Supreme Court, where it will be decided once and for all.

* — (9th Circuit Court of Appeals 2012 ruling in Perry v. Brown, striking down California’s Prop. 8, which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry).

DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIPS IN ARIZONA

I have recently been asked, by a number of people, whether Arizona recognizes Domestic Partnerships, and how it compares to marital rights.   Domestic partnerships are recognized in Arizona, but only for limited purposes, such as where a patient in a hospital is unable to make or communicate healthcare treatment decisions.  Arizona Revised Statutes §36-3231 provides that, in cases where the patient is unmarried, a domestic partner may be allowed to act as a surrogate.  Certain cities in Arizona recognize domestic partnerships and have registries where partners can file a declaration of domestic partnership or a civil union, but their rights are generally restricted to visiting the other partner in a hospital or health care facility.  Some insurance companies provide options for domestic partners, and others don’t.  You would have to contact your insurance company to determine what, if any, benefits are provided. 
It is important to note that there is no law in Arizona giving domestic partners the same or similar rights as a couple who is married.  By law, married couples in Arizona have inheritance rights; the right to be covered on health insurance policies; the right to make healthcare decisions for a spouse under certain circumstances; and, in the event of a divorce, the right to a fair division of community property, the right to receive spousal maintenance (if they qualify under the statute), and parental rights.  For domestic partners, however, none of those things are automatic, and some of them (such as a community propertydivision, and receiving spousal maintenance) are precluded under Arizona law.   
Now that both heterosexual and same-sex couples have the right to marry in Arizona and all other states, domestic partnerships and civil unions are not as favored, and the development of laws around these forms of partnership has slowed.  A marriage provides far more legal protection than a domestic partnership, a civil union, or cohabitation.  

If you have questions about domestic partnership law and your legal rights, I suggest that you make an appointment for a consultation with a Family Law attorney.   

Gary Frank & Jacinda Chen

                      
Gary J. Frank is an attorney and mediator with over thirty years of Family Law experience in dealing in divorcecustody, and parenting issues. For many years he acted as a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, which gave him an insight into the inner workings of the courts that many attorneys lack.  In addition to representing Family Law clients in litigation, we are also willing to help people by working with them on a Limited-Scope or Consultation-Only basis.  Our office is located in the Biltmore area of central Phoenix, with satellite offices in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, Arizona.  We can be reached by telephone (602-383-3610); or by email at gary.frank@azbar.org.  You can also reach us through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, contact us today.  We’d be happy to help.