FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | March 12, 2004
The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU File Lawsuit Seeking the Right to Marry for Lesbian and Gay Couples in California
(San Francisco, CA, March 12, 2004) — The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Lambda Legal, and the ACLUs of Northern and Southern California, filed a lawsuit today seeking the right to marry for same-sex couples in California on behalf of six same-sex couples, Our Family Coalition, and Equality California.
Five of the six couples had appointments to obtain marriage licenses at San Francisco City Hall but their appointments were cancelled as a result of the California Supreme Court's order yesterday directing San Francisco to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The lawsuit argues that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violates the California Constitution's guarantees of equality, liberty, and privacy.
"This is a historic moment," said Kate Kendell, the Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "It is long past time for California law to fully embrace and protect the relationships of lesbian and gay couples. We are confident that the issues presented in our lawsuit and the real life stories of these couples will provide the court with compelling justification finally to correct this longstanding injustice."
The couples in the suit are:
- Lancy Woo and Cristy Chung who have been together for 16 years. They have a five year old daughter, Olivia. Lancy and Cristy had an appointment to get married at San Francisco City Hall on March 30th, 2004.
- Joshua Rymer and Timothy Frazer who have been together more than 10 years. Josh and Tim met in 1994 and exchanged wedding rings in a private ceremony in 1995. Josh and Tim had an appointment to get married at San Francisco City Hall at 2 p.m. on March 17, 2004. They were planning to have a small ceremony at City Hall, to be followed by a reception and renewal of vows at their home in Sonoma.
- Jewelle Gomez and Diane Sabin who have been together for 11 years. Jewell is the Program Director at the San Francisco Arts Commission. Diane is a chiropractor. Diane and Jewell intended to marry as soon as they could obtain a marriage license.
- Myra Beals and Ida Matson, who are 61 and 68 years old, respectively, have been together for 27 years. They had an appointment to get married at San Francisco City Hall on Friday, March 12, 2004 - one day after the California Supreme Court ordered San Francisco to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Friends and family had made plans to join them in San Francisco on March 12 to celebrate their marriage with them.
- Arthur Frederick Adams and Devin Wayne Baker who have been together for three and a half years. Arthur and Devin had an appointment to get married at San Francisco City Hall at 3 p.m. on March 11, 2004. They bought wedding rings and arrived at San Francisco City Hall about 2:45 p.m. on March 11, along with several family members and friends who were there to witness and celebrate their wedding. Arthur and Devin were in the process of completing an application for a marriage license when they were informed that no further marriage licenses would be issued to same-sex couples.
- Jeanne Rizzo and Pali Cooper have been together for 15 years. Jeanne and Pali had an appointment to get married at San Francisco City Hall at 3:00 p.m. on March 11, 2004. They arrived at San Francisco City Hall on that date, accompanied by about fifty family members and friends, including many who had traveled from out-of-town and out-of-state. Jeanne and Pali were on the steps of City Hall with their family members when they were told that no more marriage licenses could be granted.
The two organizational plaintiffs in the suit are:
- Our Family Coalition is a San Francisco Bay Area organization dedicated to promoting the civil rights and well being of families with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members. Many of Our Family Coalition's members wish and intend to marry their same-sex partners, but have not been able to do so.
- Equality California is the leading state-wide advocacy group protecting the needs and interests of same-sex couples and their children in California. Equality California was the sponsor of A.B. 25 (2001), A.B. 205 (2003), and is currently the sponsor of A.B. 1967 - the Marriage License Non-Discrimination Act. Many of Equality California's members desire and intend to marry their same-sex partners in San Francisco, but have not been able to do so yet.
NCLR, along with its co-counsel Lambda Legal and the ACLU, are also representing five same-sex couples and Equality California in the two San Francisco trial court actions that were stayed yesterday by the California Supreme Court. In its March 11, 2004 order, the California Supreme Court did not rule on the underlying question of whether it violates the California Constitution to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. Rather, the Court simply set a briefing schedule and timeline for the hearing, and ordered San Francisco to stop issuing additional marriage licenses until the California Supreme Court resolves the issues presented by the case.
Co-counsel also include Stephen V. Bomse, Richard DeNatale, and Hilary Ware of Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe LLP, David C. Codell and Aimee Dudovitz of the Law Office of David C. Codell, and Clyde J. Wadsworth and Dena L. Narbaitz of Steefel, Levitt & Weiss.
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.