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On January 1, 2003, Assembly Bill AB 2777 (Nation) went into effect. This bill amended the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 to permit certain Boards of Supervisors, including Los Angeles County, to extend to domestic partners of County employees the same survivor benefits received by the spouses of eligible County employees who die either before or after retirement. Both LACERA and the Board of Supervisors supported passage of AB 2777.

On August 26, 2003, the Board of Supervisors on a motion by Supervisor Yaroslavsky, unanimously adopted a resolution to provide survivor benefits to domestic partners of current and future retirees. The resolution took effect immediately.

The new law implemented by the Board of Supervisors provides that a person who qualifies as a domestic partner under the Family Code is eligible for the same survivor The qualifications include:

  • The partnership is registered with the Secretary of State.
  • Both persons have a common residence.
  • Neither person is married or a member of another domestic partnership that has not been terminated.
  • Both persons are at least 18 years of age.
  • Either of the following:
    • Both persons are members of the same sex.
    • If of the opposite sex, one or both of the persons are over the age of 62.
  • Both persons are capable of consenting to the domestic partnership.

A domestic partner of a member who retired under a service retirement or a nonservice-connected disability retirement does not qualify unless the partnership was registered with the Secretary of State at least one year prior to retirement. The one-year requirement does not apply to members who retire under a service-connected disability retirement or death before retirement, but the partnership must be registered before the date of retirement or death.

In the event that a member with an eligible registered domestic partner dies leaving a dependent child, that child will receive the continuing allowance until age 18 or until married, whichever occurs first, or until age 22 if enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited educational institution. When the child no longer meets the eligibility qualifications, payments will be made to the domestic partner. However, if the child elects to receive a lump-sum payment in lieu of the continuing allowance, the payment will be shared equally among any surviving dependent children and the domestic partner.

In 2003, Governor Davis signed two additional domestic partner bills. Senate Bill 85 makes clarifying amendments to the Retirement Law. Assembly Bill 205 amends the Family Code and extends most of the rights and duties of marriage to persons registered as domestic partners.

SB 85

Effective January 1, 2004, SB 85 changes the age and education requirements for a dependent child who receives the continuing allowance. The changes make these requirements the same as other sections within the Retirement Law that provide benefits to a dependent child.

AB 205

AB 205, by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, gives domestic partners most of the legal rights, protections, and benefits accorded to married persons. It also gives them the same responsibilities, obligations, and legal duties under the law. These rights and responsibilities extend to community property, parenting responsibility, child support, access to divorce court, access to family benefits at work, and mutual responsibility for debt.

To qualify as domestic partners under AB 205, the persons must meet the requirements of the Family Code as listed above. In addition, termination of the partnership may be handled through the courts or, if certain conditions are met, by filing a Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership with the Secretary of State.

Registered domestic partners will be subject to these rights and responsibilities effective January 1, 2005.

To view the California Secretary of State site for Domestic Partners Registry, click on the link below.