SAN FRANCISCO - The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Lambda Legal are filing a brief before a California appeals court today urging the court to affirm a lower court decision saying it is unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the ability to marry.
"Couples, whether gay or straight, who commit to sharing and building their lives together deserve protection of their relationship," said Christine Sun, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. "As the trial court correctly recognized, it would be arbitrary and unfair to deny legal protection to a committed, loving couple simply because they are in a same-sex relationship."
The brief is being filed today in the California Court of Appeal, First District on behalf of 12 same-sex couples from throughout the state, as well as Equality California and Our Families Coalition. The ACLU brought the case with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (which is lead counsel) and Lambda Legal in response to a decision by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in February 2003.
On March 14, 2005, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled that it was an unconstitutional violation of the state's equal protection guarantees and the fundamental right to marry to deny same-sex couples the ability to marry. The state appealed that decision to the California Court of Appeal.
"We would feel much safer knowing that our family has all the protections of marriage," said Lancy Woo, who has been in a committed relationship with her partner Cristy Chung for 17 years. "Just like any other parents, we want to provide our young daughter with all the protections and rights that any other couple has when they get married and have children."
The 12 couples involved in this lawsuit have made life-long commitments to each other. Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin have been together more than 51 years. Karen Shane and Judy Sokolower have been together more than 32 years. The couples come from throughout the state and from all walks of life, ranging from a small business owner to a writer to a chiropractor. Many of these couples are raising children together. Many of the couples in the case had appointments to obtain marriage licenses at San Francisco City Hall, but the California Supreme Court ordered the mayor to stop issuing licenses before they could obtain theirs.
Oral arguments in the case are expected to take place sometime next year.