Marriage Lawsuit Advances to California Supreme Court

August 17, 2007 12:00 am

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Briefs Argue Marriage BanIs Unconstitutional

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SAN FRANCISCO — In briefs filed today with the CaliforniaSupreme Court, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Centerfor Lesbian Rights, and Lambda Legal argue that California violates itsown constitution by denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry.

“When two people fall in love and decide to getmarried, theyare saying to the world, ‘this is my family; this is my dreamfor the future,’” said Tamara Lange, a senior staffattorney with the ACLU. “We think the court will see thatsame-sex couples fall in love just like everyone else andshouldn’t be denied the ability to fulfill their dreamsthrough marriage.”

The organizations filed the briefs in the coordinated marriagecasesnow before the California Supreme Court. They respond to argumentspresented by the state of California, which is defending thediscriminatory law, and to four supplemental questions asked by theCalifornia Supreme Court on June 20. NCLR, Lambda Legal, the ACLU,Heller Ehrman LLP, and the Law Office of David C. Codell represent 15same-sex couples, Equality California, and Our Family Coalition.

“Everyone knows marriage has nosubstitute,” saidShannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for LesbianRights. “Marriage is the way loving couples express theircommitment and love, and this is true for lesbian and gay couples aswell, who long for the opportunity to marry. The time has come to bringthis unconstitutional discrimination to an end.”

The California Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last yearafterthe California Court of Appeal reversed a decision by San FranciscoSuperior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer finding that barring same-sexcouples from marriage unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis ofsex and violates the fundamental right to marry.

“Anything less than marriage leaves lesbian and gaycouplesin a confusing and discriminatory twilight zone,” said LambdaLegal Senior Counsel Jennifer C. Pizer. “We know this becausewe answer the distress calls every day—calls that began withthe first statewide domestic partner bill in 1999 and haven’tslowed as the law broadened over the years. To the contrary, thedistress calls have increased as more couples register, hoping toshield their families, and encounter inconsistent, incompleteprotections. We’ve welcomed the Supreme Court’sinvitation to explain how far domestic partnerships fall short of fullmarriage.”

On September 17, more than 250 religious and civil rightsorganizations, including the California NAACP, Mexican American LegalDefense and Educational Fund, California Council of Churches, AsianPacific American Legal Center, and National Black Justice Coalition,will file friend-of-the-court amicus briefs in support of marriage forsame-sex couples. The briefing process concludes with responses toamicus briefs, which are due October. The court will set oral argumentsat the conclusion of the briefing.

The 15 represented couples have made life-long commitments toeachother. Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin have been together more than 50years. Karen Shane and Judy Sokolower have been together more than 30years. The couples come from across the state and from all walks oflife, with some working in business, some in education, and others inhealth professions. Many are raising children together. Others areretired.

“Marriage validates relationships and strengthens Californiafamilies by honoring the commitments of every loving couple,”said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. “We have alreadylearned that domestic partnerships and civil unions cannot replace thecritical legal protections, universal recognition and dignity thatmarriage affords. Excluding same-sex couples from marriage deniescountless couples legal recognition of the love they share.”

The Supreme Court is considering six marriage cases under thetitle Inre Marriage Cases. The briefs field today and other information aboutthe case are available at www.aclu.org/caseprofiles; www.nclrights.org, www.lambdalegal.org/our-work/in-court/cases/in-re-marriage-cases.html and at www.eqca.org.

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The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legalorganizationcommitted 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 inIn re Marriage Cases. www.nclrights.org.

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achievingfullrecognition 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’sforemostadvocate of individual rights. It fights discrimination and movespublic opinion on LGBT rights through the courts, legislatures andpublic education. www.aclu.org

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


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