Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I thought she was married

A recent ruling by an Orange County CA judge has brought to light the questions that have existed since the formation of domestic partnerships. The California marriage laws say that alimony ends when a former spouse remarries, not when they enter into a registered partnership it seems.

Ron Gerber knew that his former wife was living with another woman when he agreed to pay alimony. He claims that he didn't know that the two women had registered with the state as domestic partners under a law that was intended to mirror marriage. His ex wife has even taken her partners last name, a similar practice for heterosexual partners to do after marriage.

The judge ruled that a domestic partnership is cohabitation, not marriage, and Gerber must keep paying alimony. Gerber has said that he plans to appeal the decision, while he continues writing out the $1,250 a month check to his ex wife.

The decision does highlight the inequality of partnerships. On the one hand, it was used to support the recent appeals court decision on the validity of the state's ban on same sex marriages. Lawyers arguing in favor of same-sex marriage state that they will use this recent ruling as a reason to unite both gay and heterosexual couples under one system of marriage. Therese Stewart, chief deputy city attorney for San Fransico intends to argue that same sex couples should have access to marriage and that domestic partnership doesn't have the same respect or reverance as marriage right now.

"The irrationality of having a seperate, unequal scheme for same-sex partners." Stewart stated, is shown by this alimony ruling.

I certainly can see the logic to the argument. The state has set up what they claim is a system of partnership for same-sex partners that is equal to marriage without having to politically suffer. This ruling though shows that it is basically smoke and mirrors. If it is said to be an equivalant to marriage, then Garber should be freed from his alimony obligation. The judge's ruling though looks to me as though, the state will allow you to register and think you have something that offers the same benefits as marriage but when it comes down to the dollars and cents of it, it's not equal to marriage.

Whether you believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry or not, I don't believe that any state should create a system that promises one thing and when one tries to use it for legal protections, it suddenly becomes worthless.

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