An Orange County, California man has been ordered to continuing paying alimony to his ex-wife despite her committed relationship with another woman. A Los Angeles Times story detailed how Ron Garber knew his wife was living with the other woman and had taken her last name when he agreed to pay her $1,250 per month in California alimony. What he didn't know was that they had registered as domestic partners under California law.
This is an interesting turn of affairs in the debate over same-sex marriages and unions. The Orange County judge declared that registered domestic partnership is cohabitation, not marriage. Under California law, alimony ends when the receiving party remarries, but does not if she is merely cohabitating with someone.
The California Supreme Court is already reviewing the issue of same-sex marriage. The state attorney general's office has argued that same-sex marriage is not necessary because gay people already enjoy the rights of marriage under the domestic partners law. Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel for Lamda Legal, a gay rights group, said "it is better treatment if she can have her domestic partner and alimony too."
Several cases are currently moving through the California courts. Another case involves whether domestic partners can inherit property from each other without paying taxes applied to unmarried persons. There are several cases around the country regarding the rights of children whose parents are domestic partners but not married. A California court of appeals upheld the state's ban on same-sex marriage last year, citing the state's domestic partners law.
Couples registered under a state's domestic partner or same-sex marriage law remain barred from federal benefits and obligations attributed to married couples. For example, one partner has no right to the other's veterans' and social security benefits. Couples also have no rights in a state that does not recognize domestic partnerships.
As for this case, Garber says he favors allowing same-sex marriage. He said "this is not about gay or lesbian. This is about the law being fair." It also seems to be about an absurd result from the ban on gay marriage that actually increases someone's greater rights.