FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | February 11, 2004
(San Francisco, CA, February 11, 2004) — The National Center for Lesbian Rights strongly supports and applauds Mayor Newsom's commitment to do all he can to put an end to unlawful marriage discrimination against same-sex couples in San Francisco. Mayor Newsom has directed the County Clerk and the City Attorney to determine whether the county can issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The timeline for making this determination is not yet known, although the County Clerk has indicated that sorting through this question may take some time.
The key legal question is whether excluding all lesbian and gay couples from the right to marry violates the state constitution by discriminating on the basis of gender and sexual orientation. NCLR strongly supports the Mayor's belief that the restriction is unlawful, and that he has the authority and responsibility to uphold our highest state law by permitting same-sex couples to marry, on an equal basis with different-sex couples. The mayor is not proposing to disregard or flout state law; very much to the contrary, he is proposing to interpret and apply state law in a constitutional manner, which is his legal duty.
This is not a symbolic gesture. This is about real families, and the legal consequences will be very real. If and when same-sex couples are able to obtain marriage licenses and marry in San Francisco, they will be legally married. Of course, just because these couples are legally married does not mean they will not face discrimination. We expect that if same-sex couples in San Francisco are able to marry, they will face a mixture of acceptance and discrimination. For example, many companies are already treating lesbian and gay employees who married in Canada the same as they treat heterosexual employees who are married. This is a transitional time, as we move from a culture of discrimination into a culture of acceptance and equal rights.
In addition to the mayor's initiative, Assemblyman Mark Leno will be introducing legislation this week to remove the unconstitutional gender-restrictions in our state marriage laws, to enable same-sex couples to marry. Equality California, the state's leading LGBT advocacy group, is co-sponsoring Leno's bill and also strongly support Mayor Newsom's initiative.
It is tremendously heartening to live in a state with elected officials who have the courage to speak up for what is right and the integrity to stand with our community.
PLEASE NOTE: SAME-SEX COUPLES WHO ARE IN BI-NATIONAL RELATIONSHIPS SHOULD CONSULT AN IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY BEFORE DECIDING TO MARRY. CURRENT FEDERAL LAW PROHIBITS THE IMMIGRATION SERVICE FROM RECOGNIZING MARRIAGES BETWEEN SAME-SEX COUPLES. MARRIAGE WILL NOT PROVIDE YOU WITH ANY IMMIGRATION BENEFITS, BUT IT MAY JEOPARDIZE YOUR CURRENT STATUS IN THIS COUNTRY. BI-NATIONAL COUPLES SHOULD TAKE EXTRA CARE TO OBTAIN LEGAL ADVICE AND PROTECT YOURSELVES BEFORE CONSIDERING MARRIAGE.
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.