Beginning New Year’s Day, several laws took effect in the state of California that bolster the equality of women, girls, and same-sex couples. According to the Washington Post, one new law will guarantee to same-sex couples who register as domestic partners many of the same benefits marriage affords, including access to divorce court, automatic parental status over children born to one’s partner, shared responsibility for a partner’s debt, the power to determine arrangements for the remains of a partner, and protection from having to testify against one’s partner in court.
Another new law has made California the first state to ban gender discrimination in community youth athletics programs. The law (AB 2404) ensures that state- and county-sponsored sports programs meet the same guidelines of gender equality that Title IX has required of educational programs that receive federal financial assistance for the past 30 years.
A law (SB 1385) that also went into effect on January 1 will allow imprisoned women a chance for a new trial or reduced sentence if they can prove that their crime was committed under coercion of an abusive partner. The law is an expansion of a law that enabled women convicted of killing their abusers before 1992 to seek a new trial or reduced sentence. The law could mean release from prison for those who felt forced to commit a crime, knowing that they would be severely beaten by their abuser if they chose not to.