Gay and lesbian couples won another reprieve Friday when a judge declined to immediately halt San Francisco's same-sex marriage spree, saying conservative groups failed to prove the weddings would cause permanent damage. "You have not made a showing of imminent irreparable harm," Judge Ronald Evans Quidachay told lawyers for the Campaign for California Families.
The judge denied the complainant's request for a temporary restraining order but said it did have the right to a hearing on its argument that the city is violating state law. The conservative group argued that the weddings harm all the Californians who voted in 2000 for Proposition 22, which strictly defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The judge suggested that the rights of the gay and lesbian couples appear to be more substantial. "If the court has to weigh rights here, on the one hand you are talking about voting rights, and on the other you are talking about equal rights," Quidachay said.
He also consolidated the two lawsuits against the city and told lawyers for both sides to work out between themselves when the next hearing would be held. It has not been decided which judge will hear the cases. The next hearing is scheduled for March 29.
"We're delighted with today's developments," said Jon Davidson, senior counsel for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. "Four times in seven days, courts have said San Francisco can keep marrying same-sex couples. While this fight is far from over, this case will ultimately resolve whether the California constitution requires that same-sex couples be given the equal right to marry."
The city of San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples last week when Mayor Gavin Newsom said the state constitution's guarantees of equality and due process required him to issue licenses to same-sex couples. Judge Quidachay's ruling Friday does not address any of those substantive issues, nor does it address Newsom's authority as mayor to issue the marriage licenses. Those questions will be argued in the next couple of months.