Same-sex marriage laws in California

California allows same-sex marriages and will grant divorces to same-sex couples who have lived in the state for six months or who were married in California and cannot divorce where they live.

Same-sex marriage has been a controversial issue across the U.S. Because each state sets laws governing marriage eligibility within its jurisdiction, laws about same-sex marriage vary from state to state. California residents should be aware of the history of same-sex marriage legislation in the state and the current laws about same-sex marriage in California.

Battle for same-sex marriage in California

The path to same-sex marriage in California was long and winding, involving all three branches of the state’s government, finally ending in the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2004, San Francisco officials determined that the state’s restriction on marriage to only heterosexual couples violated the state constitution and began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The state Supreme Court ordered the city to stop one month later, saying the mayor did not have the authority to override state law. The court did allow a legal challenge to move through the court. In 2008, the case made it to the California Supreme Court, which ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage violated the California constitution.

In 2005 and 2007, the state legislature passed legislation that would allow same-sex marriage, but the governor vetoed both bills. In November 2008, the state’s voters effectively reversed the court’s decision allowing same-sex marriage by voting in support of Proposition 8, the law that restricted marriage to heterosexual couples only. A legal challenge to Proposition 8 made it to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. The Court’s June 2013 decision in the case Hollingsworth v. Perry overturned Proposition 8 and allowed same-sex marriages to resume in California.

Same-sex marriage in California

After the Supreme Court’s decision, same-sex couples in California can follow the same steps to marry that opposite-sex couples take. The couple needs to obtain a marriage license from a county office after filling out an application and showing a picture I.D. that proves they are both over 18 years old. The license is valid for 90 days. There is no residency requirement to marry in California, so out-of-state same-sex couples may marry in the state.

Couples who were married in 2008 after the state Supreme Court held the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and before Proposition 8 went into effect do not need to re-marry; the state recognizes those marriages as valid. The state also recognizes the marriages of same-sex couples who were legally married in other jurisdictions.

The state still recognizes registered domestic partnerships. Same-sex couples who had registered domestic partnerships are not automatically married. Those in registered domestic partnerships who wish to marry do not need to dissolve those partnerships prior to marrying.

Same-sex divorce in California

Same-sex couples who wish to divorce in the state need to have lived in the state for six months before filing a divorce petition. A January 2012 law allows couples who were married in California but later moved to states that do not recognize same-sex marriages, and thus cannot obtain a divorce where they live, to divorce in California without meeting the residency requirement.

Divorce can be a complicated matter, whether it involves a same-sex or opposite-sex marriage. Those who are considering divorce should seek the assistance of a seasoned California divorce attorney who can help ensure that they follow the proper procedures. If you have questions about divorce in California, speak with a skilled California divorce attorney who can advise you based on your specific circumstances.

Keywords: same-sex marriage; divorce; same-sex divorce