Bill Allowing Domestic Partners to Choose Family Name Passes Senate
By Equality California
The full Senate on Thursday passed the Name Equality Act, legislation that would give domestic partners and married spouses the option to choose a family name, regardless of their gender, when they register as domestic partners or marry. California senators approved AB 102, with a 24-15 vote. The bill is authored by Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, and co-sponsored by Equality California and the three California affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The Name Equality Act will be heard in the Assembly one more time for a routine concurrence vote before going to the governor's desk for final action.
California domestic partners have faced costly and lengthy court proceedings in order to change their last names after registering with the state. Similarly, state law makes it difficult for a husband to take his wife's last name upon marriage, forcing couples to request a name change in court. AB 102 would remove gender bias from both domestic partnership and marriage applications, allowing each spouse or partner, regardless of gender, the same opportunity to select a new name.
"All loving couples should have the option to choose a common last name to recognize their commitment to one another and honor their decision to become a family," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "As long as same-sex couples are excluded from marriage, EQCA and its coalition partners must pass these kinds of laws every year to clarify the rights of domestic partners. The Name Equality Act is yet another reminder that domestic partnerships will never be truly equal to marriage, and they continue to function as a way to exclude same-sex couples from the respect, dignity, rights and responsibilities that come with marriage."
While Massachusetts allows same-sex couples who are legally married to change their surnames, California would become the first state to allow domestic partners to change their names on the domestic partnership registration form if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs Ma's bill. Seven states, including Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, and North Dakota currently recognize a husband's right to take his wife's last name upon marriage.
"AB 102 will have a positive impact on the lives of countless Californians, both married spouses and domestic partners," said Assemblymember Ma. "No couple should be penalized simply for wanting to validate their union as a family. This legislation is about equality, flexibility and common sense."
The ACLU of Southern California filed a lawsuit earlier this year in federal court on behalf of a married client, Michael Buday, who tried unsuccessfully several times to adopt his wife's last name after they married. Several local and state government offices prevented Buday from changing his name.
The Assembly passed the Name Equality Act on May 7 with a 45-20 bipartisan vote.
Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians. Please visit our website at eqca.org.