Gay rights groups challenge California marriage laws in court
March 13 2004 1:00 AM ET
The National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund announced Friday morning that they had filed a lawsuit seeking to give same-sex couples in California the right to marry on behalf of six same-sex couples as well as Our Family Coalition and Equality California. Five of the six couples had appointments to obtain marriage licenses at San Francisco City Hall, but their appointments were canceled as a result of the California supreme court's order on Thursday directing San Francisco to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The lawsuit argues that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violates the California constitution's guarantees of equality, liberty, and privacy. "This is a historic moment," said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "It is long past time for California law to fully embrace and protect the relationships of lesbian and gay couples. We are confident that the issues presented in our lawsuit and the real-life stories of these couples will provide the court with compelling justification finally to correct this long-standing injustice."
NCLR, Lambda, and the ACLU are also representing five same-sex couples and Equality California in the two San Francisco trial court actions that were stayed on Thursday by the California supreme court. In its March 11 order, the high court did not rule on the underlying question of whether state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman violates the California constitution. Rather, the court simply set a briefing schedule and time line for the hearing and ordered San Francisco to stop issuing additional marriage licenses until the supreme court resolves the issues presented by the case.