Separate is Inherently Unequal, Advocates Argue

(San Francisco, CA, November 23, 2004) — The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and its co-counsel Lambda Legal and the ACLU filed a reply brief yesterday with the San Francisco County Superior Court in the California marriage equality lawsuit, Woo v. Lockyer. NCLR responded to a brief filed by Attorney General Bill Lockyer which defended California’s refusal to permit same-sex couples to marry. The Attorney General argued that California does not have to permit same-sex couples to marry because it has provided them with domestic partnership.

In essence, according to NCLR’s reply brief, the Attorney General “argues that, for same-sex couples, a status of less than full equality, in the form of domestic partnerships, is good enough.”

“Even after AB 205 goes into effect and we are given more rights and protections, we are still excluded from the right to marry, and as a result are treated as second-class citizens,” explained Art Adams, one of the petitioners in the case.

In its brief, NCLR argues that relegating lesbians and gay men to a separate and inferior legal status, rather than simply permitting them to marry, violates the California Constitution. “There can be no doubt that the maintenance of two separate family statuses is the maintenance of inequality under the law.”

Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer will hear oral arguments in the case on December 22, 2004.

As lead counsel in Woo v. Lockyer, NCLR and its co-counsel are representing 12 same-sex couples who are seeking the full scope of tangible and intangible benefits and responsibilities, as well as the esteemed status, that heterosexual couples are able to obtain through marriage. The lawsuit argues that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is a violation of their state constitutional rights to privacy, freedom of expression and equal protection based on sex and sexual orientation. Equality California and Our Family Coalition are also plaintiffs in the suit.

NCLR’s co-counsel in Woo v. Lockyer include Lambda Legal, the ACLU, Stephen V. Bomse, Richard DeNatale, and Christopher Stoll of Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe LLP, David C. Codell 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.