FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | April 8, 2004
Judge Denies Petition by Anti-Gay Group To Intervene in NCLR Lawsuit Seeking the Right to Marry on Behalf of Same-Sex Couples
(San Francisco, CA, April 8, 2004) — Ruling from the bench after extensive oral argument presented by both sides, Superior Court Judge James L. Warren denied the request of the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund to participate as a party in Woo v. Lockyer, the lawsuit brought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of six same-sex couples, Equality California, and Our Families Coalition. The lawsuit argues that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violates the California Constitution's guarantees of equality, liberty, and privacy.
The Judge held that the Proposition 22 Fund did not meet the legal standard for intervention, which requires a showing that the proposed intervenor may be harmed directly by the outcome of the case. The Judge found that the Proposition 22 Fund had not shown any way in which its members would be harmed by a ruling that same-sex couples can marry in California.
"We are very pleased by the court's ruling," said Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "This case is about real families who are harmed by being denied the right to marry. The couples who brought this lawsuit are entitled to their day in court without undue interference by an outside group with no direct interest in the case. The court correctly found that merely having a political interest in an issue does not meet the legal standard for intervention."
Earlier this month, on April 1, the lawsuit brought by NCLR was consolidated with a similar lawsuit filed by City Attorney Dennis Herrera on behalf of the City and County of San Francisco. The City's lawsuit also argues that excluding same-sex couples from the right to marry violates the California Constitution. Today's ruling applies to the City's lawsuit as well.
NCLR's co-counsel in Woo v. Lockyer include the ACLU, Lambda Legal, 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 couples in the suit are:
- Lancy Woo and Cristy Chung 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 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 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 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 Coalitionis 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.
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.