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Marriage Lawsuit Advances in California Supreme Court

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Briefs Argue Marriage Ban Is Unconstitutional'
August 17, 2007

(San Fransisco, August 17, 2007) — In briefs filed today with the California Supreme Court, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argue that California violates its own constitution by denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry.


"Anything less than marriage leaves lesbian and gay couples in a confusing and discriminatory twilight zone," said Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jennifer C. Pizer. "We know this because we answer the distress calls every day—calls that began with the first statewide domestic partner bill in 1999 and haven't slowed as the law broadened over the years. To the contrary, the distress calls have increased as more couples register, hoping to shield their families, and encounter inconsistent, incomplete protections. We've welcomed the Supreme Court's invitation to explain how far domestic partnerships fall short of full marriage."


The organizations filed the briefs in the coordinated marriage cases now before the California Supreme Court. They respond to arguments presented by the state of California, which is defending the discriminatory law, and to four supplemental questions asked by the California Supreme Court on June 20. NCLR, Lambda Legal, the ACLU, Heller Ehrman LLP, and the Law Office of David C. Codell represent 15 same-sex couples, Equality California, and Our Family Coalition.


"When two people fall in love and decide to get married, they are saying to the world, 'this is my family; this is my dream for the future,'" said Tamara Lange, a Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU' "We think the court will see that same-sex couples fall in love just like everyone else and shouldn't be denied the ability to fulfill their dreams through marriage." 


The California Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last year after the California Court of Appeal reversed a decision by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer finding that barring same-sex couples from marriage unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of sex and violates the fundamental right to marry.


"Everyone knows marriage has no substitute," said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "Marriage is the way loving couples express their commitment and love, and this is true for lesbian and gay couples as well, who long for the opportunity to marry. The time has come to bring this unconstitutional discrimination to an end."


On September 17, more than 250 religious and civil rights organizations, including the California NAACP, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, California Council of Churches, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and National Black Justice Coalition, will file friend-of-the-court amicus briefs in support of marriage for same-sex couples. The briefing process concludes with responses to amicus briefs, which are due in October. The Court will set oral arguments at the conclusion of the briefing.


The 15 represented couples have made life-long commitments to each other. Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin have been together more than 50 years. Karen Shane and Judy Sokolower have been together more than 30 years. The couples come from across the state and from all walks of life, with some working in business, some in education, and others in health professions. Many are raising children together. Others are retired.


"Marriage validates relationships and strengthens California families by honoring the commitments of every loving couple," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "We have already learned that domestic partnerships and civil unions cannot replace the critical legal protections, universal recognition and dignity that marriage affords. Excluding same-sex couples from marriage denies countless couples legal recognition of the love they share."


This Supreme Court is considering six marriage cases under the title In re Marriage Cases. The briefs field today and other information about the case are available at www.nclrights.org, www.aclu.org/caseprofiles, www.lambdalegal.org  and  at www.eqca.org.


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Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. www.lambdalegal.org


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. NCLR is lead counsel in In re Marriage Cases. www.nclrights.org.


The American Civil Liberties Union is America's foremost advocate of individual rights. It fights discrimination and moves public opinion on LGBT rights through the courts, legislatures and public education. www.aclu.org


Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians. www.eqca.org.


 

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