NCLR Presents Closing Argument In California Marriage Equality Case

(San Francisco, CA, December 23, 2004) — In a landmark case regarding the constitutionality of California’s discriminatory marriage laws, National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter presented closing arguments for allowing same-sex couples access to civil marriage to San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer. Over the course of the two day hearing lawyers for the State of California and two ultra conservative organizations argued that discrimination against lesbian and gay families should be allowed to continue and presented no constitutional concerns.

The Judge requested final written submissions by January 14, 2005 and has 90 days from that date to issue his ruling. The Judge noted the importance of this issue and stated that he intended to issue his decision in an expedited manner. Over the course of the two day argument Minter argued that there was no supportable rationale for precluding lesbian and gay couples from the right to marry. “It is undisputed that exclusion from the right to marry causes harm to lesbian and gay couples and their children,” noted Minter, “it is unconscionable that couples in committed relationships are denied a right that all parties to this historic proceeding agree is fundamental.”

Lawyers for both the state of California and the ultra-conservative, anti-gay groups argued that the traditional notion of marriage as between a man and a woman prevented the court from remedying California’s discriminatory marriage laws. “If tradition alone was sufficient justification for allowing discriminatory laws to remain on the books, we would still have a ban on interracial marriage, prohibit divorce and consider wives to be the property of their husbands,” said Geoffrey Kors, Executive Director of Equality California, an organization plaintiff in the lawsuit.

During the hearing the courtroom was filled to capacity with media, lawyers and most notably, most of the 12 couples represented in the lawsuit. Many of the couples have been together many years and several are raising children. Said Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis, two of the plaintiffs NCLR represents in the case, “The day we married at San Francisco City Hall was the happiest day of our lives, just like anyone’s wedding day. But that joy was taken away from us when the California Supreme Court nullified our marriage. Today, we took an important first step to regaining that joy as our attorneys forcefully argued that the California Constitution ensures equal protection for all families, including those of same-sex couples like us. After 17 years together as a loving and committed couple, we’ve waited long enough.” The National Center for Lesbian Rights is joined in this historic case by Lambda Legal, the ACLU of Northern California, Heller Ehrman, and the Law Offices of David Codell. A ruling from the trial court is expected early in 2005.

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.