Civil unions and legal marriages were the topic of discussion when Diane M. Goodman visited the University of La Verne, on Nov. 18, to give a speech titled “Domestic Partners vs. Marriage: The Gay Marriage Debate.”
Goodman, a University of La Verne College of Law alumna, is a partner in the law firm of Goodman & Metz. She is a family lawyer who focuses on representing gay and lesbian clients and has handled many child custody and adoption matters.
“Thirty-five percent of my caseload is domestic partners adopting their partners’ child,” Goodman said.
Goodman discussed many issues during her talk, including the defense of traditional marriage and even called upon historical references to defend her point.
“It wasn’t that long ago people of different races couldn’t get married,” she said. “It wasn’t okay until 1967.
“Interracial marriage isn’t an issue, it isn’t banned. I don’t see a difference.”
Goodman spoke about the present day “defense for marriage” issue.
“The defense of marriage is that it is an institution between a man and a woman and that procreation is its purpose,” Goodman said. “However, there is no requirement for a married couple to have children.”
She even pointed out that people beyond their childbearing years marry alluding to the notion that they marry for companionship, which is not a “defense for marriage.”
Goodman then went on to discuss civil unions in general.
“Civil union is an alternative to marriage,” Goodman said. “Separate but equal, (basically) let’s give them that so we don’t have to give them marriage.”
Goodman explained that traditionally, civil unions are not equal to marriage. She also explained some of the problems.
“They were not allowing domestic partners in the hospital,” she said. “In 2000, California gave new civil union laws. Register as a domestic partner and get visits in the hospital. 16 benefits and no obligations.”
A couple of years later, domestic partners gained the right to second parent adoptions and the right to sue for the wrongful death of their domestic partner, Goodman said.
Despite the benefits, there were still no obligations to go along with civil unions.
“Gay people have to go to court to get their own assets when breaking up. Married people just get it,” Goodman said. “When you’re gay you can choose to share or not to share.”
In her talk, Goodman discussed the passage of the Family Code section 297-297.5. Beginning Jan. 1, same sex partners who register as domestic partners get all the same benefits as marriage. The new law is retro active and will affect people currently registered as domestic partners.
“This means they have obligations, spousal support, sharing financial information, etc. Now the downside of marriage is higher,” she said.
By law, employers will be required to extend benefits offered to spouses, to domestic partners as well. Goodman addressed a problem that may rise as a result.
“Federal taxes, benefits given will be taxable income for all health benefits,” she said.
The new law is a state law, not a federal law. Benefits received such as healthcare will not be taxed by the state, but will be taxed by the federal government as income.
“One of the interesting things about the new law is the complications it will cause between federal and state law,” said Allen Stout, academic advisor III from the University of La Verne Inland Empire campus.
“It interests me because it relates to present day politics and is an issue to me in relationship to social justice,” Stout said.
Many issues were discussed during the speech. However, the most prominent idea was that marriage and civil union are not equal.
“It doesn’t seem fair that straight people can get married or register as domestic partners and homosexuals only have one option,” said Toni Mulherin of Covina.
“I think we’re going to have a two tier system – marriage and civil union,” Goodman said.
Michelle Loggia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.