Appeals court to hear same-sex marriage cases July 10
Illustration courtesy sfist.com
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service
July 4, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A state appeals court is scheduled
to hear a marathon day of arguments in San Francisco Monday on
whether the California constitution gives same-sex couples the
right to marry.
Christopher Krueger, a lawyer for the state, said this week,
"What's at stake here is the question of whether the fragile
balance the state has created between marriage and domestic partners
laws should be allowed to continue to exist.''
Krueger, a supervising deputy attorney general, will argue the
state's bid to have the Court of Appeal overturn a lower court
ruling that found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage
Krueger said, "It's rational for the state to provide same-sex
couples the same rights and protections under the domestic partners
laws while keeping the concept of marriage as being between opposite
The state is appealing a decision in which San Francisco Superior
Court Judge Richard Kramer last year struck down California laws
requiring marriage to be between a man and a woman.
Kramer said the laws violated the state constitution's guarantee
of equal protection.
On the other side, lawyers for same-sex couples have told the
court in briefs that "there is a basic human right to marry
the person of one's choice'' and no legitimate reason to "relegate
same-sex couples to a separate, second-class status.''
Shannon Minter, an attorney from the San Francisco-based National
Center for Lesbian Rights who will argue on behalf of 12 couples,
said, "It's certainly the most important case I've argued
and probably ever will.''
Chief Deputy San Francisco City Attorney Therese Stewart, who
will also argue for same-sex marriage, said the core issue is
the freedom "to work, love and live...on equal terms with
one's fellow citizens.''
While appeals court arguments normally take no more than one
hour, a three-judge panel will hear up to six hours of debate
on six consolidated cases at Monday's session at the State Building.
Minter said, "Given that we are such a large state and the
issues arose in an unusual way, it's not surprising that there
are six cases.''
Four of the lawsuits, filed by the city of San Francisco and
a total of 20 same-sex couples, seek a right to same-sex marriage.
The other two cases seek to uphold the state marriage laws and
were filed by traditional values groups including the Sacramento-based
Campaign for California Families and the Proposition 22 Legal
Defense and Education Fund.
After the hearing, the justices will have 90 days to issue a
That ruling is considered certain to be appealed to the California
Supreme Court, a process that could take at least several more
Minter said the appellate level "is a way station, but it's
a very important one.''
The two traditional-values lawsuits, which will be argued in
the afternoon part of the court session, go a step farther than
the attorney general's position in defending the state laws. They
contend that marriage should be restricted to heterosexuals because
it "is socially and culturally a child-rearing institution.''
Mathew Staver, a Florida lawyer who will argue on behalf of the
Campaign for California Families, said this week that what is
at stake is "the best interests of children and the stability
of the family.''
"If you look at human relationships, obviously men and woman
procreate. That's how children are born,'' Staver said.
The attorney wrote in a brief submitted to the court that "marriage
laws are not primarily about adult needs for approbation and support,
but about the well-being of children and society.''
By contrast, the state attorney general's office takes a middle
ground, contending that the traditional definition of marriage
can be justified in part because California is committed to providing
equal rights and benefits through its domestic partner laws.
Krueger said, "We're defending the state's entire statutory
scheme, both the marriage laws and the domestic partner laws.''
The attorney said, "Our most important message is that California
is committed to providing rights to same-sex couples and their
The cases to be argued Monday stem from but are separate from
the legal battle over San Francisco's short-lived bout of granting
same-sex marriage licenses in 2004.
The city granted about 4,000 licenses between Feb. 12 and March
11, 2004, when the state Supreme Court halted the practice in
response to a lawsuit filed by California Attorney General Bill
But the high court specifically said on March 11 that it was
considering only an administrative issue and that its stay did
not preclude the filing of a constitutional lawsuit in Superior
The city of San Francisco filed the first such lawsuit in San
Francisco Superior Court on the same day and the National Center
for Lesbian Rights filed the second, on behalf of same sex couples,
the next day.
The lawsuits by the traditional values groups, which were originally
filed to halt the San Francisco marriages, were allowed to continue
in Superior Court for the purpose of seeking validation of the
In August 2004, the state Supreme Court ruled that San Francisco
didn't have the authority to issue marriage licenses without the
backing of an appellate court, but again emphasized that it was
taking no position on whether there is a constitutional right
to same-sex marriage.
The six cases raising constitutional issues then began percolating
their way through the state court system, beginning with a hearing
before Kramer in December 2004 and his decision in March 2005
and then moving to the current appeal before the Court of Appeal.
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