Two same-sex couples sue L.A. County for marriage rights
February 25 2004 1:00 AM ET
Two same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses in Beverly Hills filed a lawsuit Monday against Los Angeles County, claiming that their constitutional rights had been violated. Both couples, who are in long-term relationships, applied for the licenses at the Beverly Hills Courthouse on February 12. But the county clerk's office refused to accept the applications and handed the couples a form saying that under state law, marriage is between "a man and a woman." "Every day these couples are denied the right to marry is a day they are being irreparably damaged as a result of the denial of their fundamental constitutional rights," said Gloria Allred, the couples' lawyer, during a news conference Monday.
For plaintiffs the Reverend Troy Perry and his partner, Phillip De Blieck, the lawsuit is long overdue. The couple, who have been in a relationship for more than 18 years, were denied a marriage license in Van Nuys, Calif., courthouse last year. Although they were legally married in Canada last year, the couple say they want the same rights and responsibilities granted married people in the United States.
Prepared to fight for those rights, they had planned to file a lawsuit if their marriage license was not granted this time. "In most ways, Phillip and I are like any other couple in this state," said Perry, who more than 35 years ago founded the Metropolitan Community Churches, a fellowship that ministers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered people. "We work our jobs. We pay our taxes. We contribute to our community. Yet the current laws of the state of California treat my same-sex partner and me as second-class citizens."
Robin Tyler, a lesbian rights activist, and her partner, Diane Olson, granddaughter of Democratic former California governor Culbert Levy Olson, are also named as plaintiffs in the suit. The couples want the courts to declare that family code laws discriminate against gay unions by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
In San Francisco, where the mayor recently ordered marriage licenses to be rewritten to allow gay marriage, legal challengers are attempting to stop the unions by using those same laws. Allred said that any decision reached in San Francisco would not be binding in Los Angeles County. County counsel Lloyd Pellman declined to comment on the lawsuit because he had not yet seen it. "People should not be threatened by this," Perry said. "We're just like they are. We don't have horns. The only difference is who we picked as our love object. We picked someone of the same sex."