Just in case you’ve had your head in the sandy beaches of California over previous months, it’s important to understand some background about gay marriage initiatives in our state. In November, the state’s Proposition 8 passed with a bare majority, representing 52% of the vote. The proposition banned same-sex marriage in California after the California Supreme Court’s landmark 4-3 ruling on May 15 that overturned a ban on same-sex marriage. This month, groups on both sides of the controversial issue gathered outside the courthouse as the Supreme Court held a hearing about what to do about the marriages that had taken place before the voters banned same-sex marriage. It is likely that the Supreme Court will allow those already wed to remain married, but it’s unlikely that the court can do more. Although voters may have an opportunity to turn over the initiative in 2010, many same-sex couples and their supporters may consider other legislation that may impact benefits for those couples, including workers’ compensation. Such legislation could expand on Justice Joyce L. Kennard’s observation that the Proposition took away the “label” of marriage.
An example of such new legislation, the Seattle Times reports, is likely to win the support of Washington’s legislators and may grant the same state-granted benefits to same-sex couples that married couples enjoy. Among these benefits is workers’ compensation, which would be provided to domestic partners who have to care for a partner injured on-the-job. The measure passed through Washington’s Senate late Tuesday night and is expected to clear the House. However, Washington has been behind California in terms of building a “slate of rights” and it seems unlikely that California’s Supreme Court will strike down Proposition 8. Nevertheless, once the court makes its ruling, legislators may turn to new efforts to give domestic partners in the state access to benefits like workers’ compensation and recognition for leave-time. If the legislation in Washington does succeed, we may see similar legislation in California that might impact your own access to workers’ compensation if you live in a domestic partnership.