FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | March 5, 2004
Gay Rights Groups and Same-Sex Couples Ask California Supreme Court to Enforce Constitutional Requirement of Equal Protection
National Center for Lesbian Rights is Lead Counsel on Behalf of Equality California and Five Couples
Married in San Francisco
(San Francisco, CA, March 5, 2004) — Today, National Center for Lesbian Rights, along with co-counsel, Lambda Legal and the ACLUs of Northern and Southern California, filed briefs on behalf of Equality California, the statewide advocacy group, and five same-sex couples in the California Supreme Court. The briefs ensure that recently married couples and their families have a voice in the lawsuit filed by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, which seeks to prevent San Francisco from continuing to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
"We are asking the Court to permit San Francisco to continue to issue marriage licenses without discriminating against same-sex couples and to allow the case to proceed on a normal track in the trial court," said Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "There is no need for the California Supreme Court to step in at this early stage. More than 3400 same-sex couples have been married in California over the past few weeks, and the sky has not fallen. To the contrary, the nation has had an unprecedented opportunity to see thousands of loving, committed lesbian and gay couples who wish nothing more than to assume the responsibilities and obligations of marriage."
"The City and County of San Francisco is following the Constitution; the State is violating it," said Geoffrey Kors, Executive Director of Equality California. "The California Constitution protects all Californians equally regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. Lesbian and gay couples cannot be excluded from this universal protection. Protecting these people is no threat to democracy or society."
Equality California is already a party to the lawsuits in the trial court on behalf of its members who were married in San Francisco as well as those who wish to be married. Equality California is also the sponsor of legislation by Assemblyman Mark Leno to end marriage license discrimination in California.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera also filed a brief today in the California Supreme Court, opposing the Attorney General"s position and stressing the City"s obligation to comply with the constitutional mandate of equality in the issuance of marriage licenses. Citing the 1948 decision of Perez v. Sharp, in which the California Supreme Court became the first high court in the nation to strike down laws banning interracial marriage, Herrera called on the court to respect the constitutional rights of all Californians, including those who are lesbian and gay.
Equality California Founded in 1998, Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to ensure the dignity, safety, equality and civil rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians. Equality California is one of the largest and fastest growing statewide LGBT organizations in the country. We can be contacted through our website at www.eqca.org.
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.