Proposition D - Retirement Benefits: Domestic Partners

Voter Guide
This measure appeared on the March 2004 San Francisco ballot.


What it does

This Charter amendment would ensure that the surviving domestic partner are treated exactly the same as surviving spouses by the Employees' Retirement System. The amendment is not expected to increase costs.

Why it is on the ballot

Currently, under the San Francisco City Charter and Domestic Partner ordinances, the surviving partner of a registered domestic partnership does not have the same rights as a married surviving spouse. The surviving domestic partner has administrative hurdles and other impediments that may result in loss of retirement benefits upon death of his or her partner.

SPUR's analysis

The effect of this Charter amendment is to ensure that surviving domestic partners are treated exactly as surviving spouses under the provisions of the Employees' Retirement System. The amendment's provisions include:

  • System members will no longer be required to provide copies of their registration one year prior to retirement or death for their surviving partner to continue to receive benefits.
  • Termination of domestic partnerships will be treated the same as dissolution of marriages.
  • Creation of a new domestic partnership by a qualified surviving domestic partner will result in termination of survivor benefits, in the same way as a subsequent remarriage terminates such benefits.
  • Domestic partner survivors of retirees, who die on or after March 2, 2004, will be entitled to exactly the same benefits as are payable to surviving spouses. Entitlements to benefits as a result of this amendment or subsequent ordinances are payable prospectively only.

The Employees' Retirement System actuarial assumptions regarding the existence of qualified surviving parties are sufficient to address the limited additional expenses that may arise from passage of this amendment. In other words, the number of domestic partners who survive their partners and qualify for survivor benefits under the City's retirement system is expected to be small enough that the new costs won't be significant.


Those who support this measure state:

  • San Francisco has supported the rights of domestic partners as a matter of fairness and equity; this measure makes a small change that helps us live up to this commitment.


Those who oppose this measure state:

  • While new costs to the City are not anticipated as a result of this measure, there may be some added exposure if larger numbers of domestic partners qualify for this measure than is currently anticipated.

This measure expresses deeply held San Francisco values about fairness: government should not privilege certain forms of committed relationships over others. If we provide retirement benefits to spouses who survive former City employees, we should do the same for domestic partners.

SPUR recommends a "Yes" vote on Proposition D.