Several States Moving Closer To Marrying Gay Couples, Lambda Legal Says as Massachusetts Prepares To Issue Licenses Starting Monday

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Lambda Legal Cases Seeking Marriage Could Reach State Supreme Courts in New Jersey and Washington by the End of 2004
May 12, 2004

(New York, Wednesday, May 12, 2004) -- As Massachusetts prepares to begin issuing marriage license to same-sex couples on Monday, Lambda Legal said today that efforts are intensifying to win marriage for lesbian and gay couples in several other states - and lawsuits identical to the case that won marriage in Massachusetts may reach high courts in New Jersey and Washington State by the end of 2004.


“We’re living in historic times that will be looked back on by generations to follow. This isn’t just one historic moment in Massachusetts next week - it’s the start of what will be a long period of progress and breakthroughs, with gay couples in other states also winning the right to marry and finally being treated equally under the law,” said Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director of Lambda Legal. “Lesbian and gay couples need the protections marriage provides, and they need them where they live and pay their taxes. We are closer than ever to making that a reality in several states.”

For the last decade, Lambda Legal has been pursuing a state-by-state strategy to win marriage for same-sex couples. Currently, Lambda Legal is suing for marriage on behalf of lesbian and gay couples in New Jersey, New York, Washington State (with the Northwest Women’s Law Center) and California (with NCLR, the ACLU and Equality California). All of those cases are in state courts, arguing that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates their rights under state constitutions.

And all of those cases are heating up this month, Cathcart said. In New Jersey, Lambda Legal filed appeal papers last week and the case should move quickly to a final ruling. In Washington State, Lambda Legal and NWLC filed motions for a prompt ruling last week, and attorneys for the state and King County have agreed to move the case quickly. In New York, attorneys for the city are set to respond to Lambda Legal’s lawsuit on Monday, just as couples begin marrying in Massachusetts. And in California, hearings are scheduled for later this month and early next month in nearly a half-dozen marriage-related lawsuits that Lambda Legal and the other groups either filed or intervened in on behalf of same-sex couples.

“We get calls every day from lesbian and gay people who are left vulnerable because they cannot secure the basic protections and security for their relationships that marriage provides. The legal patchwork that some couples can piece together without marriage does not come close to the protections of marriage itself,” Cathcart said. “Unless same-sex couples can get married, they are not treated equally under the law. And when they can get married, nobody else is harmed - heterosexual marriages remain intact and aren’t jeopardized in any way by same-sex couples being treated equally.”

Background Materials:

1. “Status Update on the ‘Next Frontier’ of Pending Cases on Marriage and Relationship Recognition for Same-Sex Couples” (includes additional details on state marriage cases, efforts to defend existing marriages, progress on domestic partnership benefits and civil unions, and more) 2. “Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Relationships by States” (a state-by-state breakdown that includes marriage, civil unions, domestic partnership benefits for state employees, etc) 3. “State Laws Banning Marriage Between Same-Sex Couples” (a state-by-state breakdown that includes laws passed by legislatures and voters) 4. “Different Issue. Different Generation. Same Smear Tactic.” (background and quotes comparing attacks on the courts after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling exactly 50 years ago with current attacks on courts that mandate equal treatment of same-sex couples)

Community Events Hosted or Co-Sponsored by Lambda Legal to Celebrate Marriages in Massachusetts and Move Forward for Equality in Other States:

Los Angeles, CA; May 15
7 p.m., March and Rally: “Equal Marriage Rights Now!” Silverlake (Corners of Sunset and Edge Cliff) Atlanta, GA; May 17
4 to 6 p.m., Celebration for Equality. The Red Chair, 550 Amsterdam Ave. Trenton, NJ; May 17
7 p.m., Town Hall Meeting: “Your Legal Options in a Changing Legal Landscape.” Trenton War Memorial, Lower Level Meeting Room (on Memorial Drive adjacent to State Capitol). Iowa City, IA; May 17
6:30 to 9 p.m., Town Hall Meeting: “Marriage Does Matter.” University of Iowa, Biology Building East Room 101, Jerry J. Kollros Auditorium (NE corner of Dubuque and Iowa). Las Cruces, NM; May 26
7 p.m., Town Hall Meeting: “Protecting Our Jobs, Our Homes and Our Families.” First Christian Church, 1809 El Paso Rd.

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