Despite the passage of Proposition 8 earlier this month, the issue of same-sex marriage is still very much alive in California. The California Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will address the issues raised by the initiative at the request of advocates on both sides:
(1) Was Proposition 8 legally valid, or must it be stricken? The court agreed November 19 to review whether the measure illegally allows a majority to restrict a minority group’s rights and whether it unconstitutionally limits judicial authority.
(2) If Proposition 8 is valid, what is the status of the 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place in California before it was passed?
The California Supreme Court calendared written arguments to be submitted through January 21 and is likely to hold a hearing in the spring, and a ruling would be due 90 days later. It declined to block enforcement of the initiative pending its decision.
Regardless of the outcome of this case, California employers are still generally required to treat domestic partners as spouses whenever benefits are extended to husbands or wives. And if the 18,000 prior same-sex marriages are upheld, an employer will be hard pressed to treat some gay or lesbian couples differently than others. Finally, talking politics in the office is always fraught with danger, and there is no more heated a political topic than this. So the California Supreme Court should be giving some importance guidance to employers in the coming months.
Learn how to respond to requests for same-sex spousal benefits while keeping your organization on solid legal ground by participating in the all-new audio conference “Same-Sex Marriages: Overcoming Policy, Benefit and Payroll Challenges” on Monday, November 24.