Though we’ve mostly managed to keep laws off of our bodies and rosaries away from our ovaries, it is increasingly difficult to keep the church and state out of our bedrooms and away from our otherwise intimate relationships. Though many new and updated laws blast into effect as we ring in the New Year, the most interesting in the lot tend to focus on defining and protecting domesticity.
Starting on Jan. 1, 2010, same-sex Californian couples who can’t legally marry in the Golden State can now jaunt off to such exotic and progressive states as Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire and, yes, even Iowa to obtain marriages. Upon return to California, these unions will be recognized as legal and valid with the same rights, protections and benefits except for the right to legally refer to the contract by the title of “marriage.”
While the bill, known formally as SB 54, won’t legalize same-sex matrimony and abolish homophobia overnight, it is viewed by some gay-rights defenders as another tool to whittle away at the discriminatory laws against same-sex partners. Along with the Federal Supreme Court challenging Proposition 8 on Jan. 11, 2010, and the recently signed Hate Crimes Prevention Act (also known as the Matthew Shepard Act), which increases sentencing for hate-based violations starting in 2010, rights-advocates hope to have a stronger case for legalizing love in the great state of California.
Furthermore, to step the marriage rights movement up a notch, the proposed 2010 California Marriage Protection Act (CMPA) intends to crusade against the evils of divorce by deeming it illegal for couples in California to end marriages. By honing in on the hypocrisy around the issues of Prop. 8 proponents’ desire to “protect marriage,” the CMPA—spearheaded by comic John Marcotte and featuring such slogans as “Hell is eternal—just like your marriage was supposed to be”—hopes to gain enough signatures to secure its place on ballots later in 2010. What began as a satirical strategy for fighting discrimination has gained to support of conservatives and liberals alike.
Other relationship-related laws ringing in the California new year include new laws AB 532 and AB 14. While AB 532 allows police to secure search warrants in order to remove guns or other deadly weapons from homes in the case of suspected or reported domestic disputes or mental health incidents, AB 14 grants police the right to declare any vehicle suspected for use in prostitution a nuisance and can impound it for up to 30 days, therefore inviting lawmakers not only into our bedrooms but also into our cars.