How Obergefell v Hodges Continues to Inspire Local Legislation

It has been more than two years since the landmark ruling of Obergefell v Hodges, which legalized gay marriage nationwide. In this post, we’ll explore two examples of how that ruling has influenced recently passed California legislation. At the Gay Family Law Center, we are pleased to see progress in recent local laws, and we hope to continue to see this type of support for the LGBT community.

SB 179 Gender Recognition Act

One of the key arguments made during Obergefell v Hodges was the need for LGBT couples to have official recognition of their relationship, just like heterosexual couples. This was framed as a right that those within the LGBT community, indeed all individuals, should have access to in the United States.

Though having long-term relationships, or being in a civil union or a domestic partnership was better than nothing, it was not the same as being legally married. The act of marriage itself, and all the nuanced rights and responsibilities that marriage entails, was critical for stepping closer to true equality.

As Justice Kennedy wrote when he penned the majority decision in Obergefell v Hodges, “the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy.”

A similar argument was made this year in California with the Senate Bill 179 Gender Recognition Act. Recently passed by California legislature and signed into law by Governor Brown, this will “make California the first state in the nation to legally recognize nonbinary people by creating a third, nonbinary gender marker on California birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, identity cards, and gender change court orders in order to enable intersex, transgender, and nonbinary people to obtain state-issued identification documents that accurately reflect their gender.” This is critical, because being forced to carry documentation that does not match your visible gender can result in harassment, violence, denial of services, and other difficulties for transgender or gender nonbinary individuals.

Like the argument mentioned above for Obergefell v Hodges, this bill hinges on the philosophy that officially allowing individuals to be recognized by their correct gender is an important matter of civil rights. Being colloquially recognized by friends, family and colleagues is good, but not good enough.

The Gender Recognition Act also follows in the footsteps of legislation that passed recently in Canada, which allows a gender neutral option on passports. In the United States, it is the first of its kind, and we hope to see more laws like it in the future.

SB 219: Seniors Long Term Care Bill of Rights

Another important aspect in Obergefell v Hodges that has continued to influence policy is the consideration of discrimination.

As of today there is no federal law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation. Though the Supreme Court Obergefell v Hodges ruling on gay marriage did not explicitly cite anti-discrimination as their reason for ruling, it is clear that the ruling has indeed impacted anti-discrimination policy regardless.

For states like California, the ruling strengthened an already robust tradition of anti-discrimination legislation. This year, another layer has been added to that legacy, with the passing of Senate Bill 219: Seniors Long Term Care Bill of Rights.

In a nutshell, this law means that seniors in long-term care facilities may not be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status. They must still receive the same level of care as everyone else in the facility.

As reported by Equality California, “less than a quarter of LGBT older adult respondents said they were able to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity with staff at long-term care facilities.” We hope this law will begin to improve those numbers.

The Gay Family Law Center continues to receive an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau for providing high-quality, caring service to our community. Though we serve the entire LGBT community, we also offer specific services for seniors such as LGBT wills and trusts, as well as overall estate planning.