(San Francisco, CA, February 10, 2014)—Ten years ago, former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom made history when he ordered the City and County of San Francisco to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. NCLR was there from the beginning of what became the “Winter of Love,” which began on February 12, 2004. We worked with the Mayor’s office to help plan the first wedding of LGBTQ icons and pioneers Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin. Their wedding—and the thousands that followed—gave voice to the lives and loves of LGBTQ people and lifted the hopes and raised the expectations of the LGBTQ community around the world. NCLR then joined with San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera in defending the Mayor’s stand for justice and served as lead counsel for many of the plaintiff couples in the landmark case that won the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in California in May 2008.

The historic 2008 decision by the California Supreme Court held that excluding same-sex couples from marriage violated the California Constitution, and that LGBTQ people are entitled to the highest level of constitutional protection. More than 18,000 couples married in California prior to the passage of Proposition 8 in November 2008. While Prop 8 stripped the freedom to marry from same-sex couples in California, it also instantly created a groundswell of support for LGBTQ people and for the freedom to marry, galvanizing both LGBTQ people and allies across the country to become passionately engaged in the effort to win full dignity and security for our families.

Brave couples challenged Prop 8 in federal court, and in June 2013 the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling that effectively nullified this stain on California’s constitution. That same day, the Court also ruled that section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. Today 17 states, at least eight tribal nations, and the District of Columbia embrace the freedom to marry, as does the federal government. NCLR is working for marriage equality in numerous additional states, including in Utah, where a federal court ruled that Utah’s laws barring same-sex couples from marrying are unconstitutional. More than 1,000 couples married, and the court’s ruling is now on appeal, with NCLR as co-counsel. NCLR is also currently representing same-sex couples challenging state marriages bans in Florida, Idaho, and Tennessee, and was co-counsel in the recent marriage equality victory in New Mexico.

“The events of 2004 and the cascade of support, momentum, and victories those events unleashed have been breathtaking,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “It has been an honor of the highest order for NCLR to be so deeply involved in these historic moments. For generations, the story of what happened in 2004 and of the amazing events that followed will be told. What an enormous privilege to have been part of that moment and this movement.”

Media Availability

  • Kate Kendell, Esq., National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director—San Francisco-based (available for local, regional, and national press).
  • Shannon Price Minter, Esq., National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director—Washington D.C.-based (available for local, regional, and national press
  • David Codell, Esq., National Center for Lesbian Rights Constitutional Litigation Director—Southern California-based (available for local, regional, and national press)
  • Cristopher F. Stoll, Esq., National Center for Lesbian Rights Senior Staff Attorney—San Francisco-based (available for local, regional, and national press)
  • Geoff Kors, National Center for Lesbian Rights Senior Legislative and Policy Director—Southern California-based (available for local, regional, and national press)

Contact NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera at 415.365.1324 or EOlvera@NCLRights.org for media inquiries.