FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | March 14, 2005
NCLR Hails Decision as a Victory for Fairness and Equality
(San Francisco, CA, March 14, 2005) — A California state court ruled today that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry, a decision that NCLR called a victory for fairness and equality. NCLR filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of 12 same-sex couples, Equality California and Our Family Coalition.
The court ruled in the plaintiffs' favor on two central arguments: denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry is impermissible gender discrimination and violates the fundamental right to marry.
"I am so happy that my parents can finally get married," said Ericka Sokolower-Shain, the fifteen-year-old daughter of plaintiffs Karen Shain and Jody Sokolower. "My parents have been together for over 30 years. They have been together so long they can practically read each others' minds. It is only right they should be able to get married."
"Couples who have made a commitment in life deserve the legal commitment to match," said Shannon Minter, NCLR's Legal Director. "This historic ruling affirms the state constitution's promise of equality and fairness for all people. The court recognized that when the government denies lesbians and gay men the right to marry, it is treating them unequally."
"We are overjoyed by today's ruling," said Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis, two other plaintiffs in the lawsuit. "Fifty years ago, the California courts paved the way for my mom and dad to get married when they struck down the state law barring interracial couples from marriage," said Stuart. "Today, the court ruled that the California Constitution protects my right to marry my partner John. We've been a loving and committed couple for over 17 years. We've waited long enough to be able to marry."
"Today we are one giant step closer to true equality for all California families," said Geoffrey Kors, Executive Director of Equality California. "The court recognized that the government has no business putting obstacles in the path of people who are seeking to care for their loved ones. Today's ruling affirms that lesbian and gay couples have the same need for the legal protections of marriage, and the same right to equal protection and dignity under the law."
Plaintiffs Corey Davis and Andre Lejeune were elated by news of the decision. "As African American gay men, we joined this lawsuit to lift the mantle of discrimination and inequality perpetuated by the state of California through its outmoded marriage laws," Corey stated. "Years from now, when marriage for gays and lesbians is legal nationwide, our children will study this issue in school and wonder-just as the white kids in my generation did about those so violently opposed to the co-mingling of the races and ending legal segregation-they'll wonder and secretly pray that their relatives weren't any of those people perpetuating discrimination against gays and lesbians."
Shannon Minter, NCLR's Legal Director, is NCLR's lead attorney on the case. NCLR was joined by co-counsel Lambda Legal, the ACLU, the Law Office of David C. Codell, and the law firms of Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe and Steefel, Levitt & Weiss.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera also filed an action challenging the constitutionality of excluding same-sex couples from the right to marry. The two actions-Woo v. Lockyer and CCSF v. Lockyer-were consolidated last year. California is the only state in which a municipality has joined with same-sex couples in seeking marriage equality.
Judge Richard Kramer was appointed by former Republican Governor Pete Wilson in 1996 and took the bench in January 1997. During his eight-year tenure as a San Francisco Superior Court judge, Kramer has handled both civil and criminal cases. Prior to becoming a jurist, Judge Kramer specialized in bank litigation for 25 years. He was born in Massachusetts and raised in California.
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.