Knight v. Schwarzenegger

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Know the laws in your state that protect LGBT people and people living with HIV.
Status: Closed
California Supreme Court
Issues: Anti-LGBT Rulings, Laws and Amendments, Marriage, Relationships and Family Protections

Case arguing to uphold domestic partnership laws despite Proposition 22, California's antigay marriage initiative

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This case involves three separate court proceedings all addressing whether California’s domestic partnership laws are valid in light of Proposition 22, the antigay marriage initiative passed by California voters in March 2000. Proposition 22 denies respect in California to marriages same-sex couples enter into in other states or countries. In September 2003, California’s governor signed AB 205, a bill that expanded California’s domestic partnership laws to provide similar rights and duties as those conferred on spouses through marriage. Within days antigay activists filed lawsuits in Sacramento and Los Angeles claiming that the domestic partnership law was invalid because it supposedly conflicted with Proposition 22. The lawsuits demanded court orders stating that the domestic partnership law was invalid. The Los Angeles lawsuit also attacked an earlier domestic partnership law, which had extended hospital visitation, medical decision-making and a dozen similar rights to domestic partners. Over the next three years, in an important published appellate decision and numerous unpublished decisions, the courts agreed with our analysis — and upheld the domestic partnership laws — appropriately protecting lesbian and gay families at every step.


California was the birthplace of domestic partnership registries, with local governments creating the first ones in the 1980s. The state legislature passed the law to create a state registry — the nation’s first — in 1999. From 1999 through 2003, California enacted more than a dozen laws to protect registered domestic partners. AB 205, a comprehensive rights and responsibilities law for domestic partners took effect on January 1, 2005.

Lambda Legal's Impact

These lawsuits confirmed once and for all that California’s antigay marriage initiative and its domestic partnership laws do not conflict. This means that same-sex couples in California who register as domestic partners are unequivocally entitled to rights and benefits comparable to couples in Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey who enter into civil unions. It also shows antigay politicians and activists that their mean-spirited attempts on our hard-won rights ultimately will not prevail.