Second Judge Refuses to Stop Same-Sex Couples Marrying in San Francisco, 'Clearly, There's No Emergency Here and Nobody Is Being Harmed by These Marriages,' Lambda Legal Says

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February 17, 2004

(San Francisco, Monday, February 17, 2004) — Two separate state courts today rejected efforts to immediately stop same-sex couples from receiving marriage licenses from the City of San Francisco.

Late today, Judge James Warren denied requests by an Arizona-based antigay group called the Alliance Defense Fund, which sought to immediately prevent the city from issuing any more marriage licenses to same-sex couples who have been lining up since Thursday. Instead, the judge set a later hearing date after additional briefs are filed. In a similar case this morning brought by a Florida-based antigay group called the Liberty Counsel, Judge Ronald Quidachay also refused to grant an injunction and set another hearing for Friday at 2 p.m.

Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the ACLU entered the case representing several same-sex couples who married in San Francisco in recent days, a San Francisco couple who wants to marry and Equality California (a statewide lesbian and gay advocacy group) on behalf of its members.

"The courts see that there’s no need to stop what's happening in San Francisco right now. Clearly, there's no emergency here, and nobody is being harmed by these marriages,” said Jon Davidson, Senior Counsel for Lambda Legal in its Western Regional Office in Los Angeles. “But this is just the beginning of our fight on behalf of these married couples and others who have yet to marry. The city is trying to protect people's constitutional rights, and we will defend that vigorously in court. We'll be back in court in the weeks and months ahead to preserve these marriages and make sure every couple who wants and needs the protections that a marriage license provides will be able to get one.” The City of San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples last week when Mayor Gavin Newsom said the state Constitution’s guarantees of equality and due process required him to issue licenses to same-sex couples. California state law prohibits recognition of marriage between same-sex couples -- but that law would have to comply with the state Constitution to remain valid, and before this week California courts had never been asked to consider whether the law is constitutional, Lambda Legal said. Judge Warren’s ruling today does not address any of those substantive issues, nor does it address Newsom’s authority as mayor to issue the marriage licenses. Those questions will be argued in the next couple of months.

Contact: Fred Shank, 212/809-8585 ext. 267; 917/691-5412 (cell)


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