FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | July 10, 2006
NCLR Argues on Behalf of Same-Sex Couples
Seeking Right to Marry
(San Francisco, CA, July 10, 2006) — The California Court of Appeal heard oral arguments today in Woo v. California and five other cases that will decide whether excluding same-sex couples from marriage violates the California Constitution. Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, argued before the Court in Woo v. California and three other cases, representing Equality California, Our Family Coalition, and sixteen same-sex couples.
"It is a great privilege to be part of this historic moment for our state and the tens of thousands of same-sex couples who deserve the same right to marry that most Californians take for granted," said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "We are hopeful that the appellate court will uphold the well-reasoned opinion of Judge Kramer, who recognized that our constitution requires full equality for lesbian and gay couples."
Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis, plaintiffs in Woo v. California, have been together for 19 years. "This is not the first time our family has relied on the California courts for relief from an unconstitutional statute. My mother, who is Chinese American, and my father, who is white, were only able to marry as a result of a landmark California Supreme Court decision that struck down a state ban on interracial marriages in 1948," said Gaffney. "Had it not been for the California Supreme Court, my parents would not have been able to marry, and I might never have been born. John and I left today's hearing with a deep and abiding faith that the California courts will enforce the California Constitution in our generation, too, by affirming that lesbians and gay men must have equal access to this fundamental human right."
Lancy Woo and Cristy Chung, who are also plaintiffs in the case, have been together 18 years and have an eight-year-old daughter. "We were so pleased to welcome Lancy to our family," said Karen Danese, Chung's mother, "but it is painful that Lancy and Cristy are denied the same legal status as other families. I long for the day when I can stand with them as they legally marry just as any loving couple should be able to do."
In April, 2005, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer ruled that excluding same-sex couples from marriage unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of gender and violates the fundamental right to marry. The Attorney General appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal, which has 90 days from today's argument to issue a decision.
More than 250 religious and civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, California Council of Churches, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and National Black Justice Coalition, filed amicus briefs supporting marriage equality for same-sex couples.
"During our 53 years together, we have witnessed enormous changes in California law concerning lesbian and gay people," said Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who are also plaintiffs in the case. "At one time, the law treated us as complete outsiders. Today, the law recognizes our existence, but it does not yet recognize our full humanity and equality. We have loved one another faithfully for more than five decades. We wish to marry before either one of us dies."
NCLR's co-counsel in Woo v. California are Heller Ehrman LLP, Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the Law Firm of David C. Codell.
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.