Ruling "Hits the 'Pause' Button, Not the 'Stop' Button" and Doesn't Yet Address Substantive Questions on Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in San Francisco, Lambda Legal Says

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March 11, 2004

(San Francisco, Thursday, March 11, 2004) — A California Supreme Court ruling this afternoon temporarily keeps San Francisco officials from issuing more marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the court has not yet addressed whether it’s constitutional to deny marriage to lesbian and gay couples, Lambda Legal said.

The California Supreme Court put the matter on hold while the court considers a lawsuit filed by antigay groups. Since Mayor Gavin Newsom began issuing license to same-sex couples last month, judges have refused to intervene five times.

"All that happened today is that matters were put on hold. This ruling hits the 'pause' button, not the 'stop' button," said Jon Davidson, Senior Counsel for Lambda Legal in its Western Regional Office in Los Angeles. "Today is just the beginning of our fight on behalf of these married couples and others who have not yet gotten married. This case will ultimately resolve whether the California Constitution requires that same-sex couples be given the equal right to marry."

Lead counsel the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal and the ACLU intervened into the case against the City of San Francisco on behalf of several same-sex couples who were married during the first week San Francisco was issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, a San Francisco couple who wants to marry and Equality California (a statewide lesbian and gay advocacy group) on behalf of its members.

The City of San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples last month when Newsom said the state Constitution’s guarantees of equality and due process required him to issue licenses to same-sex couples. California state statutes prohibit recognition of marriage between same-sex couples -- but those statutes would have to comply with the state Constitution to remain valid, and before this week California courts had never been asked to consider whether they are constitutional, Lambda Legal said. The California Supreme Court’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.

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


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