FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | August 12, 2004
By Kate Kendell
(San Francisco, CA, August 12, 2004) — Today the California Supreme Court issued an order invalidating all 4,037 marriage licenses issued by the City and County of San Francisco. We share your disappointment. We do not believe that it was procedurally proper for the court to reach out and take this drastic step. It has been our position that you were validly married. The proper course of action from our perspective would have been to leave the licenses in place while our lawsuit on behalf of you and the other couples challenging marriage discrimination in California made its way through the courts.
The Court's order is unfortunate and unnecessary. However, there were two Justices who dissented from the part of the decision holding that the marriages are void. Both Justices Kennard and Werdegar would have left the licenses in place pending a ruling the ultimate constitutional question. Justice Kennard made clear her appreciation of the issues at stake when she wrote:
"For many, marriage is the most significant and most highly treasured experience of a lifetime. Individuals in loving same-sex relationships have waited years, sometimes several decades, for a chance to wed, yearning to obtain the public validation that only marriage can give. In recognition of that, this court should proceed most cautiously in resolving the ultimate question of the validity of the same-sex marriages performed in San Francisco"...
Even though we are disappointed by the Court's ruling we want to make clear that you are (s)heroes. Your action, in simply and joyfully declaring publicly your commitment to each other, melted hearts and opened minds. Your images running night after night on the news in every far flung corner of this country elevated the debate and provided an opportunity for kitchen table conversations that have forever altered the landscape and pushed this issue to the forefront. Your courage helped others to stand up and be out, to be proud and take the risk of being honest. These marriages uplifted the debate and will have an impact beyond today's ruling.
We are evaluating the Court's ruling and exploring what legal options may be available. In the meantime we must advise you that your state will not recognize your marriage and you should take whatever steps you need to provide legal security to your relationship including registering as domestic partners if it is possible and you haven't done so.
While we view today's ruling as particularly painful, we are even more motivated to ensure that your right to marry is ultimately vindicated. We continue to applaud the courage, visionary leadership and commitment to fairness of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. When the fight for marriage equality is eventually won, and make no mistake, we will prevail, Mayor Newsom will be viewed as a key hero in our struggle.
We take lessons from other civil and human rights struggles and know that there will be moments when our hope and faith in justice will be tested. Today is such a day. But we also know that fairness, equality, justice and a respect for the highest commands of the California Constitution will win the day-some day.
If you have any questions about the ruling today or our marriage litigation please contact me or our Legal Director Shannon Minter or our Senior Staff Attorney Courtney Joslin. We are vigorously proceeding with our case challenging marriage discrimination in California. Our partners in that litigation, Lambda Legal, the ACLU and Equality California are confident that justice will win out. In due time, that case, Woo v. Lockyer, will be heard by the same Court that ruled today. Because of your courage and commitment we know the outcome will be different on that day. We are so grateful and proud to be a part of this historic moment in our history. You will always be a source of profound inspiration.
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.