SACRAMENTO — There are more than 18,000 same-sex couples who are legally married in California yet don’t have access to more than 1,000 federal rights afforded to heterosexual couples.
That’s according to Assembly members Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) and Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) whose resolution to call on President Barack Obama and Congress to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which recognizes a union as being between a man and a woman, is making its way through the state Legislature.
AJR 19, which is co-sponsored by Equality California and the California Faculty Association, was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and will head to the full Assembly. If passed by both houses, the resolution will become effective without approval from the governor.
“Right now in California there are tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are legally married who are denied any of the federal benefits and recognition that legally married heterosexual couples because of DOMA,” Geoff Kors, the executive director of Equality California, said. “As a result same-sex married couples are denied social security benefits, death benefits, equal taxation … and over 1,100 rights that (opposite-sex) married couples receive.”
The resolution has been opposed by groups like the California Family Council.
A representative for Save California, a pro-family organization that supported Proposition 8, was not available for comment.
More than 18,000 same sex couples married from the May 2008 state Supreme Court’s rejection of the ban on gay marriage to the passage of Proposition 8 later that fall. The Supreme Court has subsequently upheld the controversial constitutional amendment.
Gay marriage advocates said they will wait until 2012 to ask voters to repeal Prop. 8.
Brownley said the Defense of Marriage Act bars same-sex marriage couples from receiving many of the benefits awarded to heterosexual couples, including receiving surviving spouses’ Social Security benefits, accessing health insurance through a federally-employed spouse and the ability to file joint tax returns.
“It’s time to repeal DOMA, to protect the 18,000 same-sex marriages in California so they have all the rights and privileges of a heterosexual married couple,” she said.
If DOMA is eventually repealed, supporters of gay marriage believe it could help their chances in overturning Prop. 8 in a few years.
“It would lead to marriage equality in other states across the country,” Peter Kreysa, the treasurer for the California Faculty Association, said.
The association is the union representative for the California State University system and has in the past supported various resolutions such as a bill calling for federal support for higher education. Recommendations to sponsor certain bills come out of various caucuses within the association, including one for women, and another for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, the latter of which pushed for AJR19.
“There are a good number of lesbian and gay faculty, both tenured track and lecturers, who are employed in the California State University system,” Kreysa, who married his husband last year in a ceremony in Lake Tahoe, said.
Kreysa, who is an associate professor for professional studies at California State University Long Beach, said he believes the momentum is shifting in favor of marriage equality, noting the increasing acceptance of the LGBT community.
“This resolution, if it does pass in … our state legislature, is another step forward in the entire country coming to the conclusion that it’s good for us to acknowledge, appreciate and recognize same-sex marriages,” he said.