Tags: California | High | Court: | Gay | Couples | Have | Rights

California High Court: Gay Couples Have Rights of Legally Married

Tuesday, 02 August 2005 12:00 AM

The ruling came in a case involving a lesbian couple, B. Birgit Koebke and Kendall French, who sued a country club in Rancho Bernardo. Koebke filed suit against the club over policies that permit legally married spouses and children of members to play on the club's golf course for free. Koebke, a member, said the policies forced French to pay guest fees and limited the number of times she could golf at the club.

The club argued that it did not discriminate against same-sex couples because it treated all unmarried couples the same. A lower court had sided with the club.

The new ruling held that a business denying benefits to registered domestic partners engages in "impermissible marital status discrimination."

In light of the ruling, businesses that offer discounts to married couples will now have to offer those benefits to registered domestic partners, according to Jon Davidson, legal director for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represented the plaintiffs.

San Diego attorney Van Tenberg said the ruling is a landmark decision, adding: "This changes the way everyone does business in California. If you're a business and offer spousal benefits or privileges of any kind, you've now got to offer those same benefits to domestic partners."

In response to the ruling, Randy Thomasson, an opponent of the state's domestic partners law and an organizer of the Voters' Right to Protect Marriage Initiative, called on voters to "stop the out-of-control courts from trampling marriage and trashing the deeply felt standards of private businesses and organizations."

Ironically, the ruling could have an adverse effect on the campaign for a law allowing same-sex marriage.

California law defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and earlier this year a state court judge said that law was unconstitutional. The ruling is on appeal and will likely end up before the state supreme court.

But the court's reasoning in the country club case could damage the argument that a ban on gay marriage amounts to discrimination, because same-sex couples would enjoy equal rights with married couples even if they are not legally wed.

University of Santa Clara Law Professor Gerald Uelmen told the Los Angeles Times: "It does not bode well for same-sex marriage."

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The ruling came in a case involving a lesbian couple, B. Birgit Koebke and Kendall French, who sued a country club in Rancho Bernardo. Koebke filed suit against the club over policies that permit legally married spouses and children of members to play on the club's golf...
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2005-00-02
Tuesday, 02 August 2005 12:00 AM
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