FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | November 9, 2005
(San Francisco, CA, November 9, 2005) — The National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a brief today in the California Court of Appeal on behalf of twelve same-sex couples, Equality California, and Our Family Coalition in Woo v. Lockyer, a historic case seeking marriage for lesbian and gay couples in California.
"We stand in the shoes of thousands of other couples in this state who are simply seeking fairness and equality for their families," said Lancy Woo, the lead plaintiff in the case. Lancy has been with her partner, Cristy Chung, for seventeen years. The couple has a 7-year old daughter.
Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who are among the eleven other couples in the case, have been together for more than 52 years. They are 84 and 81 years old, respectively. "We have seen many changes in our lifetimes, and the promise of equality now seems within reach," said Phyllis Lyon. "We have lived in California for many years, and we have been responsible, contributing members of this society," she added. "We hope the court will finally permit us to feel truly included and equal in our home state, and that we have a chance to marry during our lifetimes."
"With each day, we move closer to our dream of full equality for LGBT families," said Courtney Joslin, a Senior Staff Attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who represents the couples. "It is our great hope that the Court will fulfill the promise of the California Constitution."
NCLR's brief states: "By excluding lesbian and gay couples from marriage, the law cuts to the core of their dignity and full citizenship."
In April, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer held that excluding same-sex couples from marriage violates the California Constitution. "Simply put," he ruled, "same-sex marriage cannot be prohibited solely because California has always done so before." Judge Kramer rejected the State's argument that providing same-sex couples with domestic partnership is sufficient. "The idea that marriage-like rights without marriage is adequate smacks of a concept long rejected by the courts: separate but equal."
Two anti-gay groups have submitted initiatives to amend the California Constitution to permanently ban not only marriage, but also domestic partnership for same-sex couples. These initiatives would require California to eliminate its current domestic partnership laws. If passed, the initiatives would roll back most of the rights that have been granted to same-sex couples, including the right to health insurance, hospital visitation, inheritance and medical leave. They also would deny lesbians and gay men the right to use step-parent adoption procedures and to have both parents' name put on the birth certificate when a child is born. In addition, the initiatives would strip the courts, cities, towns and other government entities of any ability to require equal treatment of same-sex couples.
Two months ago, the California Legislature recognized that the current marriage statute is discriminatory and voted to change the law to treat lesbian and gay couples equally. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the legislation, saying that the court should decide this issue. "We are optimistic that the court will do what the Governor didn't have the strength to do: remove the barrier that blocks lesbian and gay couples from legal equality in the State of California," said Equality California Executive Director Geoffrey Kors.
NCLR's co-counsel in Woo v. Lockyer are Lambda Legal, the ACLU, Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe LLP, the Law Office of David C. Codell, and 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.