Equality California Announces Campaign to Defeat Right-Wing Attack on Domestic Partners Bill
Board Votes to Contribute $25,000 and Staff
(October 7, 2003)
SAN FRANCISCO -- Equality California, the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization, today announced the formation of a campaign committee to fight the ballot referendum filed by state Senator Pete Knight and Assemblymember Ray Haynes to overturn the recently enacted Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003. The committee, Equality for California Families, will facilitate a community-based campaign to urge California voters to support the law.
"Senator Knight's proposed referendum to take rights away from California families will not succeed," declared Geoffrey Kors, EQCA Executive Director. "California voters believe that domestic partners and their families should be treated fairly under the law and we are confident that we will prevail."
The Board of Directors of Equality California voted to contribute $25,000 and to commit its entire staff to launch the effort to protect the rights gained this year through passage of AB 205, the Domestic Partners Act.
To qualify for a vote by the people, referendum supporters must gather 373,816 valid voter signatures by December 21, 2003. If they are successful, the referendum would likely appear on the ballot during the March 2004 presidential primary election and the new domestic partners law will require an affirmative vote to go into effect.
The Domestic Partners Act was authored by Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg and sponsored by Equality California. The primary co-authors were the remaining four members of the LGBT legislation caucus, Senator Sheila Kuehl and Assemblymembers Christine Kehoe, John Laird and Mark Leno, and Assemblymember Paul Koretz. The law provides registered domestic partners with access to hundreds of California laws that already protect opposite-sex married couples and their families. Rights and responsibilities conveyed by the Act include: community property, mutual responsibility for debts, parenthood presumptions, child custody and support obligations, access to family courts, the right not to testify against a domestic partner, the right to obtain absentee ballots for a domestic partner, and the right to claim a partner s body after death.
The referendum to take away domestic partner rights is not the first time that Senator Pete Knight has led an attack on California s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. In 2000, voters passed the Knight-sponsored Proposition 22 to require the state of California to refuse to honor marriages between same-sex couples performed in other jurisdictions. In a related lawsuit filed at the same time as the referendum, Knight claims that the Domestic Partner Act violates Proposition 22.
"This referendum is an attempt to strip away critical legal protections that should belong to all Californians by pretending that domestic partnership laws equal marriage, which they clearly do not. Domestic partnerships do not provide all of the same rights as marriages, are not recognized by the federal government and do not have the same cultural and societal significance. Without question, same-sex couples and their families deserve full equality but domestic partnerships provide the only legal protections currently available," Kors stated.
More than 22,000 same-sex and senior opposite-sex couples are registered as domestic partners in California. If the voters failed to approve the Domestic Partners Act, these couples would lose all the rights granted by the Act.
EQCA is currently conducting outreach to community LGBT and ally organizations across the state to begin building the grassroots infrastructure necessary to educate California voters about the importance of protecting all California families. Community organizations will begin meeting next week. To participate, organizations should contact firstname.lastname@example.org. A website and statewide effort to recruit volunteers will also be launched within the next week. Contributions can be sent to: EQCA Families, 2370 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94114 FPPC# 1259396, Jim Nickoff, Treasurer (Please include occupation & employer -- required by law).
EQCA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to ensure the dignity, safety, equality and civil rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians. Equality California is one of the largest and fastest growing statewide LGBT organizations in the country. We can be contacted through our website at www.eqca.org.
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