In a move that may further polarize an already tense political atmosphere during an election year, President Obama announced recently on ABC News that he supports same-sex marriage. The announcement marks a reversal of the position he has maintained since he ran for national office in 2006. While the substance of the announcement likely surprised few, especially considering the changing social climate across the nation and the President’s decision to stop enforcing parts of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, it sparked much debate as to the strategy behind the revelation.
The President’s announcement came only a day after North Carolina voted to amend their state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman, joining thirty other states, including California, with similar such constitutional amendments.
The state of same-sex marriage in California is complex, to say the least. Between June 16, 2008, and November 5, 2008, the state permitted same-sex marriages. November 5, 2008, marked the passage of Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. The California Supreme Court interpreted Proposition 8 as having no effect on those same-sex marriages validly entered into between June and November, thus creating the complex state of marriage. Although Proposition 8 is being appealed and may even end up at the U.S. Supreme Court, California does not today recognize as marriage any union between persons of the same sex, except for those from the brief window in 2008.
The President’s announcement does not affect the legal status of same-sex couples in California or elsewhere in the nation. Indeed, he emphasized that his position was a personal one and that he supports the concept of states being able to decide for themselves how they want to define marriage.
In California, same-sex couples who are not legally married in the state currently have the option to enter into a California domestic partnership. California Family Code § 297-297.5 defines a domestic partnership as two adults who have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring.” While the state law confers many of the benefits of marriage upon domestic partners, advocates for same-sex marriage maintain that domestic partnerships are a mere approximation of marriage and that they are still socially inferior, if legally equivalent.
Same-sex couples, domestically partnered or not, can face a multitude of complex issues when they travel from one state to another. While a San Diego family law attorney can help a couple draft the documents necessary to ensure that many of their rights and obligations to each other are preserved across state lines, the laws in this field are in a constant state of flux, and there is no guarantee that another state or entity will acknowledge the significance of those documents.
San Diego family lawyer Roy M. Doppelt has over 20 years of experience practicing family law in California. His practice includes helping same-sex couples understand the nuances of domestic partnership and marriage laws, assisting with child adoption procedures, and advising people through the difficult process of legal separation and divorce. We are pleased to serve clients in Linda Vista, Encinitas, Scripps Ranch, and throughout San Diego and Southern California. For a free confidential consultation, contact Doppelt and Forney, APLC online, or call us at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).