Ten years after the tragic death of Diane Whipple, attacked by two dogs outside of her Pacific Heights Apartment, the Bay Area Reporter looks back on the lasting legacy her case has had on the LGBT community. While prosecution of the dog owners landed one 15 years in prison for second-degree murder and the other an involuntary manslaughter conviction, it was Whipple's partner Sharon Smith who would put a new face on LGBT struggles by fighting for her rights as a surviving partner.
As the BAR puts it, in July 2001 Smith (who later changed her name to Enlowsmith) "made gay rights history when San Francisco Superior Court Judge A. James Robertson allowed her to proceed with her wrongful death lawsuit although she was not a legal spouse." The case would eventually lead to legislation from Assemblywoman Carole Migden, lobbied for by Enlowsmith, that strengthened the rights of domestic partners in California. Prior to the case, there was no precedent to allow a domestic partner to sue for wrongful death.