November 29, 2002
REGISTERING A DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP IN CALIFORNIA
By: Susan Price-Livingston, Associate Attorney
You asked what steps people who have registered domestic partnerships in California must take to qualify for state rights and benefits enacted after their registration.
Since 1999, California's secretary of state has administered a state-wide domestic partner registry for adult couples "who have chosen to share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring" (Family Code § 297). Under current law, registration is available only to same-sex couples over the age of 18 or opposite-sex couples when one person is over age 62 and eligible for certain Social Security (old age) benefits. The couple must:
1. have a common residence,
2. agree to be jointly responsible for each other's basic living expenses,
3. be neither married nor a member of another domestic partnership,
4. not be related by blood in a way that would prevent them from being married to each other in California,
5. be capable of consenting to the domestic partnership, and
6. file a notarized Declaration of Domestic Partnership (id. ).
It appears that once registered as a domestic partnership, partners qualify, without further action, for all existing and future benefits flowing from that status. Language in AB 25 (which passed in the 2001-02 legislative session) gave legal effect to registered partnerships in any provision of law specifically referring to domestic partners, and then added references to such relationships in 60 separate state laws (44 in the Probate Code, six in the Family Code, four in the Unemployment Insurance Code, two in the Government Code, and one each in the Health and Safety, Insurance, Labor, and Revenue and Taxation codes).
Similarly, the extension to registered domestic partners of coverage under California's intestacy law in AB 2216 (also enacted in the 2001-02 session) requires the secretary of state to notify all couples who registered before January 1, 2003, that they will be covered under the law when it goes into effect on July 1, 2003 unless they have (1) a will, trust, or other estate plan or (2) terminated their partnership in the manner provided by law.
OLR Report 2002-R-0950 provides additional information on the scope of California's domestic partnership law.