Couple aniticipates hearing
on same-sex marriage
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service
July 3, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Two San Francisco men who will ask
a state appeals court on Monday to affirm their right to marry
say they feel proud to be part of a historic case.
John Lewis, 47, said last week that while it's tiring to be part
of a lawsuit stretching over several years, "We have a deep
and abiding faith in the California constitution."
His partner, Stuart Gaffney, 43, said, "This is a historical
moment. Our country is finding its way on this issue as we speak.
That's an exciting thing to be part of."
Lewis and Gaffney are one of 12 couples represented by the San
Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights in a lawsuit
that claims same-sex couples in California have a right to marry
under the state constitution.
On Monday, a panel of the state Court of Appeal in San Francisco
will hear arguments on state Attorney General Bill Lockyer's appeal
of a lower court ruling in favor of the same-sex couples.
In that ruling, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer
last year struck down state laws requiring marriage to be between
a man and a woman and concluded that the constitution provides
a right to same-sex marriage.
In addition to Lewis' and Gaffney's case, the appeals court will
consider five other cases. Three, filed by other gay and lesbian
couples and the city of San Francisco, support same-sex marriage.
The other two cases, filed by traditional values groups, oppose
Lockyer, in defending the marriage laws, has argued that the
state has a right to retain the traditional definition of marriage
while at the same time giving same-sex couples almost all the
same rights and benefits through domestic partner laws.
The Campaign for California Families, one of the traditional
values groups, contends in its legal arguments that marriage should
be restricted to heterosexual couples because it is essentially
"socially and culturally a child-rearing institution."
To Lewis and Gaffney, however, "marriage is the marking
of a family" regardless of sexual orientation, Lewis said.
"An equal right to marriage should be something you are
born with," Gaffney said.
Lewis, a lawyer, and Gaffney, a project director at Center for
AIDS Prevention Studies at the University of California at San
Francisco, have been a couple for 19 years.
They say their quest for marriage has had aspects of a roller
They were among the first 10 couples to be married during San
Francisco's short-lived period of granting same-sex marriage licenses
Lewis said he was on the steps of City Hall at midday on Feb.
12, 2004, for a demonstration for Freedom to Marry Day, an unofficial
and not widely known holiday established by a gay advocacy group.
When it was announced that the city had begun issuing licenses,
he borrowed a cell phone to call Gaffney, who "bolted down
to City Hall" for a wedding conducted by the city's chief
Lewis said they felt "treated for the first time as equal
human beings by our government."
Six months later, when the state Supreme Court invalidated the
San Francisco marriages, he felt "the badge of inferiority
literally being placed back on me," Lewis said.
The two men then joined the National Center for Lesbian Rights'
constitutional challenge, which was already pending in San Francisco
Gaffney said he feels an additional connection to the case because
his parents, who are Chinese-American and white, were allowed
to marry as a result of a landmark California Supreme Court decision
that struck down a state ban on interracial marriages in 1948.
The earlier ruling is cited in the same-sex couples' brief as
a precedent for the proposition that there is a basic human right
to marry a person of one's choice.
Gaffney wrote in a declaration filed with the lawsuit, "Had
it not been for the California Supreme Court, my parents would
not have been able to marry and I might never have been born."
He said in the statement that the two men hope "the California
courts will enforce the California constitution in our generation,
too, by affirming that the fundamental right to marry the person
of one's choice applies to all persons, regardless of one's sex
or sexual orientation."
Gaffney and Lewis said they are not daunted by the knowledge
that the case is likely to continue for months, since the Court
of Appeal's eventual ruling is certain to be appealed to the state
Lewis said the lengthy litigation "does take a toll"
but is also rewarding because it gives the couple a chance to
talk to others about the principles at stake.
"We've been together for 19 years and we hope to celebrate
our 20th anniversary with a fully legal marriage," he said.
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