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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Law - "Alimony provides a same-sex union test"

This is interesting. Thanks to How Appealing for the link to this LA Times story today by Maura Dolan. It begins:

Ron Garber knew his former wife was living with another woman — and had taken her last name — when he agreed to pay her $1,250 a month in alimony.

What he didn't know was that the two women had registered with the state as domestic partners under a law that was supposed to mirror marriage law, Garber said.

State marriage laws say that alimony ends when the former spouse remarries, and Garber reasons he should be off the hook, given that domestic partnership is akin to marriage. But an Orange County judge has decided that registered partnership is cohabitation, not marriage, and that Garber must pay.

"This is not about gay or lesbian," Garber said. "This is about the law being fair."

The case, which Garber intends to appeal, highlights gaps between the legal status of domestic partners and of married couples, an issue the California Supreme Court is considering as it ponders whether to legalize same-sex marriage.

Proponents of same-sex marriage typically argue that gay couples will not have the full rights of heterosexuals until they too can marry. The Orange County case, however, shows how heterosexuals can be the collateral damage of the lesser legal status of domestic partnership.

If spousal support does not end with domestic partnership, "heterosexual men are the ones whose ox is being gored more often than not," said San Francisco family law attorney Diana Richmond.

Lawyers in favor of same-sex marriage are watching the Orange County alimony case and say they will cite it to the state high court as an argument for uniting gay and heterosexual couples under one system: marriage.

Therese Stewart, San Francisco's chief deputy city attorney, said the alimony ruling and other gaps in the domestic partnership law "highlight the irrationality of having a separate, unequal scheme" for same-sex partners.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 22, 2007 01:11 PM
Posted to General Law Related