I just received from a friend who works in a law office the official decision for the California Supreme Court in Lockyer v. City and County of San Francisco. Embedded in the decision is the excerpt below on naming things and their relationship to the state's equal protection clause:
We need not decide in this case whether the name “marriage” is invariably a core element of the state constitutional right to marry so that the state would violate a couple’s constitutional right even if — perhaps in order to emphasize and clarify that this civil institution is distinct from the religious institution of marriage — the state were to assign a name other than marriage as the official designation of the formal family relationship for all couples. Under the current statutes, the state has not revised the name of the official family relationship for all couples, but rather has drawn a distinction between the name for the official family relationship of opposite-sex couples (marriage) and that for same-sex couples (domestic partnership). One of the core elements of the right to establish an officially recognized family that is embodied in the California constitutional right to marry is a couple’s right to have their family relationship accorded dignity and respect equal to that accorded other officially recognized families, and assigning a different designation for the family relationship of same-sex couples while reserving the historic designation of “marriage” exclusively for opposite-sex couples poses at least a serious risk of denying the family relationship of same-sex couples such equal dignity and respect. We therefore conclude that although the provisions of the current domestic partnership legislation afford same-sex couples most of the substantive elements embodied in the constitutional right to marry, the current California statutes nonetheless must be viewed as potentially impinging upon a same-sex couple’s constitutional right to marry under the California Constitution.This makes be wonder about the name marriage and how it is used by different groups of people.
Furthermore, the circumstance that the current California statutes assign a different name for the official family relationship of same-sex couples as contrasted with the name for the official family relationship of opposite-sex couples raises constitutional concerns not only under the state constitutional right to marry, but also under the state constitutional equal protection clause.
If any government body creates a law that offers benefits or restrictions to a class of individuals,it becomes necessary to name them. If a company offers benefits to individuals associated with an employee, it needs to define who those beneficiaries are. In many prosaic ways that relate to finances and operating a household, folks of all types set up informal partnerships to conduct the business of day-to-day living, e.g. they split the cable bill and divide the chores. For relatively independent individuals like roommates, it makes sense to let these relationships come together and dissolve on an ad hoc basis. In some cases, a high level of dependency exists between these folks. One individual can stay at home and rely on the other completely for their financial support. In other cases, one person's old age or disability can force them to rely on another's ability or finances for their well being. It seems that in the latter case, these domestic partnerships would benefit from legal and codified financial protections. In some cases--a single parent caring for a disabled child, or an adult child caring for an aging parent--these relationships are already defined and codifies along blood lines. In the case of relationships based on some emotional regard rather than blood, domestic partner would work well for breeders and queers alike.
Perhaps the wisdom of King Solomon is embedded in the quote above. Rather than fight over the right to claim the term, the legislature could split it's version of partnership from the religious terminology, and leave marriage to the mosques, temples, cathedrals, etc. of the state's superstitious thinkers.