Gov. Gray Davis strengthens the rights of domestic partners, women, and people of faith with two strokes of his pen
On October 14, California Gov. Gray Davis signed into law two bills that go a long way in advancing equal rights and civil liberties in that state. The first bill, Assembly Bill 25, greatly expands the legal rights and protections extended to domestic partners, and the second bill - called the California Freedom of Access to Clinic and Church Entrances Act or "FACE" - protects individuals from harassment and violence at reproductive health clinics and houses of worship.
"We are delighted," said Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way. "Governor Davis and the State of California took two courageous steps forward by signing these measures into law."
Speaking on Assembly Bill 25, the domestic partner bill, Neas said, "Gov. Davis does more than advance equal rights by signing this bill into law, he demonstrates compassion and fairness. It is unthinkable that, prior to now, domestic partners could have been prevented from making medical decisions or using sick leave to care for an ill partner." The new law also includes provisions for one domestic partner to relocate with the other without losing unemployment benefits; file for disability benefits on behalf of an incapacitated partner; sue for wrongful death; administer a partner's estate; bequeath property using the state's statutory will; and adopt a partner's child using the stepparent adoption process.
While praising the legal protections offered domestic partners under the new law, Neas said that most of the rights afforded married couples remain unavailable to same-sex partners. "Even strong domestic partnership laws are no substitute for full and equal marriage rights," he said.
With regard to California's FACE, Neas noted that the new state law is similar to the federal act protecting reproductive health clinics, but goes further by adding religious institutions and authorizing state and local law enforcement to uphold the law. Neas said, "California did the right thing by adding teeth to the federal act. Women have faced untold harassment at clinics and it's high time it stopped."
People For the American Way used its electronic network of activists to organize grassroots support for the two bills as they moved through the Assembly and to the governor's desk. PFAW has over 100,000 members and electronic activists in California.