Editorial

On Oct. 14, Gov. Gray Davis signed into law California Assembly Bill 25. The bill was one of hundreds given the OK just before the midnight deadline by which Davis had to authorize or veto bills passed by the state legislature this year.

The bill expands domestic partners’ rights for same-sex couples, and for opposite-sex couples in which at least one member is over the age of 62. With the enactment of this bill, California moves to the forefront of the national debate over gay rights — and it is a well-chosen step.

Indeed, such legislation is long overdue. We commend Davis for signing the controversial bill despite protest by many groups.

Under the new legislation, couples registered as domestic partners gain new rights formerly only afforded to married couples. Among these, they will be able to administer each other’s estates, inherit property from a deceased partner without a will, sue for wrongful death on behalf of a partner and adopt a partner’s child using the step-parent adoption process.

We welcome this legislation because it allows for treatment of committed gay couples in the same ways that married straight couples are. While this law does not legalize gay marriage — which is expressly prohibited under the California Constitution — it dodges that thorny issue and still allows for the pragmatic benefits of partnership.

The bill is also appreciated because it acknowledges that homosexuals are entitled to the same basic rights as heterosexuals and because it legally recognizes that their partnerships are as deserving as those of straight couples.

Especially promising is the provision that essentially permits partners to become stepparents, which legitimizes the validity of nontraditional families.

Critics of AB 25 claim that it is in fact a gay marriage bill under a more palatable name, that the legislation condones purportedly immoral behavior and that the bill denigrates the institution of marriage.

It is unfortunate that such bigotry is still present in California. To pass moral judgment on the actions of others is one thing, but to expect the government to make legislation based on these judgments is ridiculous.

Any law that gives equal protection under the law to a disenfranchised group is beneficial to us all.

We can now only hope that legislation such as this will become the rule and not the exception around the country, and that we as a nation will devote ourselves to ensuring the fair and equitable treatment of all our citizens, thus reaffirming the basic values that make United States a beacon of freedom around the world.

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