February 6, 2008

Same-sex Couples Ask California Supreme Court to Strike down Marriage Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

SAN FRANCISCO – The California Supreme Court announced today that it will hear oral arguments on March 4 in the cases challenging the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage.

Fifteen same-sex couples, Equality California, and Our Family Coalition will be represented at oral arguments by Shannon Price Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is serving as co-counsel with Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, Heller Ehrman LLP and the Law Office of David C. Codell.

The marriage cases were filed in March 2004. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer ruled that the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage violates the California Constitution. In a 2-1 vote, the California Court of Appeal reversed Judge Kramer’s ruling. Shortly after the Court of Appeal’s decision, the California Supreme Court granted review of the cases in order to consider the constitutional questions itself.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that the California Supreme Court should decide the constitutional questions posed by the marriage statutes when he vetoed two measures passed by the California legislature in 2005 and 2007 that would have permitted same-sex couples to marry.

The marriage cases are among the most heavily briefed cases in the history of the California Supreme Court. Late last year, more than 20 counties and municipalities filed a friend-of-the court brief in support of marriage for same-sex couples, including some of the most populous cities in California: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, Long Beach, Sacramento, and Oakland. Also registering their support for marriage equality were numerous legal and bar associations, including the Los Angeles County Bar Association. In addition, many of the state’s leading constitutional law scholars and family law professors filed briefs urging the court to permit same-sex couples to marry. More than 250 religious and civil rights leaders and organizations, including the California NAACP, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, California Council of Churches, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and National Black Justice Coalition, also filed briefs supporting same-sex couples seeking the right to marry.

The California Supreme Court typically issues its decisions within 90 days following oral arguments.

2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the California Supreme Court’s historic 1948 ruling that found it unconstitutional for the state to restrict access to marriage based on the race of the spouses. That ruling was the first of its kind in the nation’s history, and is now the law of the land across the country. The California NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc., and Howard Law School Civil Rights Clinic have urged the court to apply the reasoning from its 1948 decision to the present marriage cases.

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The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. NCLR is lead counsel in In re Marriage Cases. www.nclrights.org

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. www.lambdalegal.org

The American Civil Liberties Union is America’s foremost advocate of individual rights. It fights discrimination and moves public opinion on LGBT rights through the courts, legislatures and public education. www.aclu.org

Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians. www.eqca.org

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