Civil rights groups and cities
urge court to allow same-sex marriage
Photo by Luke
By Julia Cheever
September 26, 2007
Dozens of religious and civil rights groups along with 19 California
cities and counties asked the state Supreme Court in San Francisco
today to rule there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
The requests were made in about 30 friend-of-the-court briefs
filed in a pending case that consolidates six lawsuits disputing
whether gay and lesbian couples have a right to marry under the
The high court has not yet scheduled a date but is expected to
hear arguments in the case early next year. The panel's seven
justices will then have 90 days to issue a written ruling.
One of the friend-of-the-court briefs was filed by the California
Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of
The group's president, Alice Huffman, said, "We are not
treating all Californians equally if some can marry and others
A brief filed by 144 religious organizations and 266 individual
clergy members argues that the principles of religious freedom
and separation of church and state require giving same sex couples
equal access to civil marriage.
The Rev. Neil Thomas, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church
Los Angeles and chair of California Faith for Equality, said the
brief "bears witness to our highest religious values, honoring
love, equality and commitment in human relations."
State laws limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman
are being defended by the California attorney general's office,
which has argued that heterosexual marriage is deeply rooted in
California history and tradition and that same-sex couples have
equivalent rights and protections through domestic partnerships.
The state was supported by a friend-of-the-court brief filed
in June by Judicial Watch, a conservative public-interest group,
which maintained that courts shouldn't intrude on the marriage
laws passed by the Legislature and a voter initiative.
"The judiciary should not innovate social policy,"
Judicial Watch argued in its filing.
The six lawsuits before the state Supreme Court include four
filed by the city of San Francisco and a total of 19 gay and lesbian
couples seeking the right to marry.
The other two lawsuits oppose same-sex marriage and were filed
by the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund and the
Campaign for California Families.
The same-sex marriage supporters are appealing a ruling in which
a Court of Appeal panel in San Francisco last year upheld the
state laws by a 2-1 vote.
The appeals court majority said the Legislature and voters had
a rational basis for restricting marriage to heterosexual couples
while at the same time giving same-sex couples equal benefits
through domestic partnerships.
The panel said, "Courts simply do not have the authority
to create new rights, especially when doing so involves changing
the definition of so fundamental an institution as marriage."
Other civil rights groups filing briefs in support of same-sex
marriage today include the Mexican-American Legal Defense and
Education Fund and more than 60 Asian-Pacific Islander groups.
Bay Area cities and towns signing on to a brief supporting the
appeal include Berkeley, Cloverdale, Cotati, Fairfax, San Jose,
Oakland, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol.
Counties joining the local governments' friend-of-the-court brief
include Marin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz.
The brief contends the state laws force the counties to "improperly
and unconstitutionally discriminate against their gay and lesbian
residents" by denying them marriage licenses.
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