ACLU and Gay Rights Groups Praise Court's Decision to Permit San Francisco to Continue Granting Marriage Licenses To Same-Sex Couples

February 18, 2004 12:00 am

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SAN FRANCISCO – In a tremendous victory for gay and lesbian rights, a San Francisco Superior Court judge issued an order on Tuesday permitting the City of San Francisco to continue issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Since February 12, more than 2,700 same-sex couples have obtained marriage licenses in San Francisco. The court also granted a request to intervene on behalf of five gay and lesbian couples that are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Lambda Legal, and the ACLU of Northern California (ACLU).

“”This is a watershed moment in the struggle for equal marriage rights,”” said Kate Kendell, Executive Director of NCLR. “”As San Francisco Mayor Newsom and City Assessor Mabel Teng have rightly concluded, the California Constitution requires equal treatment of lesbian and gay couples.””

NCLR, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU are representing four gay and lesbian couples who were married in San Francisco as well as a same-sex couple that plans to marry. The groups argue that “”excluding same-sex couples from the right to marry violates the equal protection and due process provisions of the California Constitution.””

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who are 83 and 79, were the first same-sex couple to get married on February 12, 2004 and are being represented by NCLR, Lambda Legal and the ACLU. “”We have waited 51 long years for this day, for the right to get married,”” said Martin and Lyon. “”We’ve been in a committed and loving relationship since 1953 and we are thrilled that other same-sex couples will now have the same opportunity and rights as all married couples.””

“”Two people in a loving relationship who have made a commitment to each other should not be denied the right to marry simply because their partner is of the same sex,”” said Tamara Lange, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. “”Denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry denies these couples of hundreds of important rights, including the right to make funeral arrangements for a partner, to take leave to care for a sick partner, or to be protected against the loss of a family home if one partner must go into long-term care.””

Jon Davidson, Senior Counsel for Lambda Legal in its Western Regional Office, added: “Married couples in San Francisco deserve respect and fair treatment. We will fight vigorously in court to protect their marriages and ensure that other couples continue having access to marriage licenses. While we still have a legal battle ahead, two separate courts have already seen that there’s no need to stop what’s happening in San Francisco now because there is no emergency and nobody is being harmed.” NCLR, Lambda Legal and the ACLU are representing the following couples:

  • Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, who are 79 and 83 years old and have been together for 51 years. They obtained a marriage license in San Francisco and were married in a civil ceremony on February 12. If their marriage were invalidated they would lose important rights and protections that are crucial for senior couples to protect themselves, such as the right not to lose their house should one them have to go to a nursing home.
  • Margot McShane and Alexandra D’Amario have been together for three and one-half years. Alexandra is currently pregnant with twins. They obtained a marriage license and were married in a civil ceremony on February 12. As they start their new family, being married has given them an enormous sense of security because they know that, if one of them becomes disabled or ill, they will be better able to take care of each other and their children.
  • Sarah Conner and Gillian Smith have been together for almost four years. They recently went through the experience of supporting one another through a severe disability and understand the unique protections marriage provides to spouses and surviving spouses at times of serious illness and death. On February 12 they obtained a marriage license and were married in a civil ceremony at San Francisco City Hall
  • David Scott Chandler and Jeffery Wayne Chandler are a same-sex couple that have been in a committed relationship for 11 years. They have a son who was born on July 5, 2003. They were expecting twins, but one of the twins did not survive his premature delivery. Because they were not married, instead of being able to grieve for the loss of their son, they encountered painful barriers in arranging their son’s funeral. On February 14, David and Jeffery obtained a marriage license and were married in a civil ceremony at San Francisco City Hall.
  • Theresa Michelle Petry and Cristal Rivera-Mitchel are a same-sex couple that have been together for 12 years. They have a son who is almost four years old. They would like to marry one another.

Geoffrey Kors, Executive Director of Equality California, California’s Statewide LGBT political and lobbying organization, added: “”Today, same-sex couples remain free to marry in San Francisco and the public will continue to witness the joy and happiness that these couples experience. As the court case moves forward, the California Marriage License Non-Discrimination Act is being considered by the California Legislature. California is once again demonstrating its leadership on civil rights issues and, in so doing, is sending an important message of inclusion and equality to the entire world.””

For more information about the case and copies of the legal documents visit,, and

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