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News, City Council, Santa Monica, Housing

Santa Monica Domestic Partners Gain More Housing Rights

Posted Aug. 17, 2013, 8:58 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

One night after an extensive public debate about the Downtown Specific Plan and a disruptive moment during deliberations of the medical marijuana dispensary moratorium, a shorthanded City Council quickly approved Tuesday an ordinance expanding the housing rights of domestic partnerships.

Officially recommended to council members by the Rent Control Board, the ordinance, according to City staff, amends local law to comply with state law.

City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie told council members the ordinance removes “certain procedural hurdles for domestic partners asserting housing rights in unlawful detainer proceedings.”

Simply put, domestic partners will be entitled to the same exact rights as heterosexual spouses when it comes to eviction proceedings.

Prior to the enactment of the ordinance, married heterosexual couples were offered full protections under the law in eviction proceedings from the moment their union was legally recognized. However, same-sex domestic partners who lived together as tenants in a Santa Monica residence had to file an affidavit with the City Clerk prior to being served with a three-day notice in an unlawful detainer proceeding.

For example, City staff pointed out while a tenant living in Santa Monica can avoid possible eviction by marrying a co-tenant of the opposite sex, domestic partners would not be able to do the same.

However, under state law, both domestic partners and married couples share the same rights as soon as they are registered as a legally recognized couple.

Specifically, the California Family Code reads: “Registered domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law, whether they derive from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, government policies, common law, or any other provisions or sources of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.”

In December 2012, Rent Control Board members supported a recommendation urging council members to amend city law to “conform with state law.” Under state law, domestic partners share the same rights as married spouses.

The Rent Control Board, according to City staff, believed such a policy appears to “create additional burdens” for domestic partners “above those placed on married spouses.” Amending city law to be consistent with state law would eradicate such a “burden.”

The approved ordinance also clarified “domestic partners are entitled to equality with spouses under the law, as required by state law.”

Council members will vote on this ordinance again during its scheduled second reading in two weeks.

Only four council members were present at the time of the vote: Mayor Pam O’Connor and Council members Bob Holbrook, Kevin McKeown, and Ted Winterer. All four voted in favor of the ordinance.

No members of the public spoke.

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