California recognizes seven-and-a-half years of gay marriages from elsewhere

by Rex Wockner

National News Briefs

A bill signed Oct. 12 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recognizes as fully married any gay couple in California who got married between April 1, 2001, and Nov. 5, 2008, in a country or state where same-sex marriage is legal.

On April 1, 2001, the Netherlands became the first place in the world where same-sex couples could marry. The new law also recognizes same-sex marriages that took place in Massachusetts, Canada, Spain, Belgium and South Africa prior to Nov. 5, 2008, when California voters amended their constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage, which had been legal for four-and-a-half months.

The state Supreme Court later ruled that the new ban, Proposition 8, cannot be applied retroactively, and declared that 18,000 gay couples who married in California while it was legal remain married. The new law affirms that such recognition also extends to gay couples who got married anywhere else before Prop. 8 passed.

The law also extends all state marriage rights - except the right to call their marriage a "marriage" - to same-sex couples who got married anywhere in the world after Nov. 5, 2008, or who do so in the future. California's domestic partnership law grants same-sex couples every state-level right and obligation of marriage except the right to call their union "marriage."

Since Nov. 5, 2008, same-sex marriage also has become legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Norway and Sweden.

"We are grateful that the governor has signed this critical bill, which provides much-needed protections for same-sex couples who have legally married out of state, or will in the future, and who deserve to be treated like any other married couple," said Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors. "This bill will allow same-sex couples to get married in other states and countries and ensure they are treated equally under the law when they return to California. Ultimately, however, restoring the freedom to marry is the only way to ensure that all Californians receive the dignity and respect that comes with marriage."

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