San Francisco asks court for resumption of same-sex marriages
March 20 2004 1:00 AM ET
City officials in San Francisco asked the California supreme court on Thursday to allow the resumption of gay marriages. The request, filed by city attorney Dennis Herrera, came a week after the seven high court justices ordered a halt to the marriages until the court decides whether San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom and his administration had the power to defy state law and issue marriage licenses to more than 4,000 same-sex couples beginning February 12. San Francisco "should be allowed to resume issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for the time it takes to resolve the constitutional questions in the lower courts," Herrera told the justices in court briefs. Robert Tyler, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is opposed to equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, said, "Let's allow the city to disregard democracy and the rule of law in order to give the city time to attempt to pass their social agenda?" The alliance is scheduled to submit briefs to the justices on March 25.
The court, responding to petitions by a conservative group and Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, announced last week that it would decide only whether Newsom had the authority to declare the Family Code--which says marriage is a union between a man and woman--unconstitutional and issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. The court is expected to hold a hearing on the issue in May or June. The justices said they would not immediately decide whether banning gay marriages would violate California's constitution, as Newsom alleges. Herrera, in the briefs submitted to the high court, also argued that the justices should not decide on Newsom's power until the courts decide the constitutional issue, which could be years away. Last week the city of San Francisco and the same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses sued in the lower courts, alleging that California's constitution permits gay marriage. The supreme court, in its order last week, suggested that it would not decide the broad constitutional issue until that issue worked its way through the lower courts, a process that could take a year or more.