State Laws and Legislation

California Marriage/Relationship Recognition Law

Same-sex marriages legally entered into on or before Nov. 4, 2008, in other states or countries will be recognized as marriages under California law. Same-sex marriages taking place in other states or countries after Nov. 4, 2008, will only be recognized as domestic partnerships.

Recent Developments in California

On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as different-sex couples under the state constitution.

Between June 17 and November 4, 2008, more than 18,000 same-sex couples married in California. On November 4, 2008, voters in California narrowly approved Proposition 8, which amends the state constitution to prohibit marriage equality, enshrining discrimination in the state constitution. A lawsuit filed on Nov. 5 by the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights seeks to invalidate Proposition 8. On May 26, 2009, the California Supreme Court in Strauss v. Horton upheld Proposition 8, but also held that the 18,000 marriages of same-sex couples that took place between June 17 and November 4, 2008, are still marriages under California law.

On May 26, 2009, David Boies and Ted Olsen filed Perry v. Schwarzenegger in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8 under the U.S. Constitution. California Attorney General Jerry Brown has backed the lawsuit. Trial is scheduled for January 2010.

More information

California Domestic Partners

Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, signed a bill Oct. 14, 2001, that enhances the state's domestic partner law by extending health care, estate planning and adoption benefits to unmarried couples who have registered as domestic partners. The law gives same-sex couples some of the essential resources necessary to protect their families and their relationships.


Among the benefits available to California domestic partners as a result of the new law are:

Davis signed another domestic partner bill into law on Sept. 10, 2002. The law provides inheritance rights for surviving domestic partners of California residents who die without a will or other estate plan. The new law creates parity between domestic partners and spouses for the purposes of "intestate succession," or inheritance in the absence of a will.


To be eligible for these and other benefits under California law, a couple must file a notarized Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the secretary of state's office along with a $10 filing fee. In this declaration, they must declare that they:

To obtain the Declaration of Domestic Partnership form, visit a local county registrar's office or the California secretary of state's office - or download a copy.

Updated: Thu, February 26, 2009 - 12:00:27