Same-sex marriage in California
Lawsuits launched to legalize same-sex
(SSM) during 2004 and 2005
The term "SSM" in this section refers to "same-sex marriage"
Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, CA,
directed the county clerk issue "gender neutral" marriage
licenses to gay, bisexual, and lesbian couples. He took this action on
2004-FEB-10. The timing of the mayor's action may have been influenced by
the National Freedom to Marry Day, which has been celebrated annually
on FEB-12 throughout the U.S. since at least 1998. Newsom reasoned that this was a legal act
because the equal protection clause in the state constitution prohibits
sexually-based discrimination on personal matters. More
The issuing of same-sex
marriage licenses was stopped on 2004-MAR-11. The action was in response to an
interim stay by the California Supreme Court which ordered the city to
stop performing such marriages. 4,037
marriage licenses had been issued to same-sex couples during the 29 days after the
window temporarily opened. 1,2
A lawsuit by the City of San Francisco and 12 same-sex couples:
On 2004-MAR, two lawsuits were launched -- one by the City of San Francisco
and the other by twelve couples -- requesting that same-sex couples be allowed
to marry. The couples were represented by the National
Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the American Civil Liberties
Union. The lawsuits asserted that marriage is an elementary human right. To
deny all same-sex couples the opportunity to marry the person to whom they are
committed on the basis of the spouses' sexual orientation or gender violates
this human right.
Opposing the city and couples were Attorney General's
office, the Campaign for California Families and the Proposition
22 Legal Defense and Education Fund. Liberty Counsel represented the
Campaign. The groups argued for the status quo. They said that California
has a legitimate interest in restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples as a
means to encourage procreation. They had an uphill battle arguing this point,
- Allowing same-sex couples to marry would encourage
more of them to adopt children or have children of their own through
- Many opposite-sex married couples decide to not
- Many opposite-sex couples are infertile for medical reasons or age and
- Many opposite-sex unmarried couples decide to
A good argument can be made that allowing SSM would
increase the number of children born to married couples.
On 2005-MAR-14, Richard Kramer, judge of the San Francisco County Superior
Court issued a single ruling covering both cases. He acknowledged that
same-sex couples had not been allowed to marry in the past. However, he
determined that this was a form of discrimination that the state cannot justify
any longer. He wrote: "The state's protracted denial of
equal protection cannot be justified simply because such constitutional
violation has become traditional. Simply put, same-sex marriage cannot be
prohibited solely because California has always done so before." He
has stayed the decision for 60 days to allow for appeals. Everyone appears to be
in agreement that appeals are inevitable until the case reaches the
California Supreme Court.
Judge Kramer rejected the argument that the state has a
legitimate interest in confining marriage to opposite-sex couples. He wrote: "One
does not have to be married in order to procreate, nor does one have to
procreate in order to be married. Thus, no legitimate state interest to justify
the preclusion of same-sex marriage can be found."
Some unidentified supporters of SSM compared this ruling
to the 1948 state Supreme Court decision that made California the first state to
overturn its ban against interracial marriage.
Dennis Herrera, an attorney for San Francisco said: "Today's
ruling is an important step toward a more fair and just California that rejects
discrimination and affirms family values for all California families."
Mathew Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, said: "For
a single judge to rule there is no conceivable purpose for preserving marriage
as one man and one woman is mind-boggling....This decision will be gasoline on
the fire of the pro-marriage movement in California as well as the rest of the
country." By the term "pro-marriage movement" he is apparently
referring to the anti-SSM movement.
Jeanne Rizzo, 58, and Pali Cooper, 49, were one of the
couples to be denied the opportunity to marry by the
Supreme Court's ruling in 2004. They said that they
were "basking" in Monday's decision Rizzo said: "We know we have many steps
ahead of us, but we have the opportunity to go from here standing in dignity not
defense... It is always better to do that."
Assemblyman Ray Haynes, (R) has sponsored a bill in the
California legislature to place a constitutional amendment on the next
ballot to prohibit same-sex marriage. If the bill is defeated, opponents to same-sex
marriage would probably attempt to launch a petition to amend the constitution.
Haynes said: "This ruling demonstrates absolutely what we have to do, which
is to amend the Constitution so that we can take the question out of the hands
of any judge anywhere at any time."
3 This bill did not proceed.
On 2005-MAR-14, during an interview on MSNBC's
"Hardball," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said that he doesn't "believe in
gay marriage. I think that this will be now going eventually to the Supreme
Court in California, and we will see what the decision is. And whatever that
decision is, we will stay by that, because I believe in abiding by the law and
sticking with the law." He added that he would not favor amending the
state constitution in order to overrule the Supreme Court if it approves of SSM.
References (in chronological order):
- "California court halts same-sex marriages,"
CNN.com, 2004-MAR-12, at:
- "Court annuls gay unions. California judges
rule same-sex marriages void. Decision affects 4,000 couples who wed this
year," Reuters, Associated Press, 2004-AUG-12.
- Lisa Leff, "Judge: Calif. cannot ban gay
marriages," Associated Press, 2005-MAR-15. at:
- "Calif. Ruling Sets Up Gay Marriage Fight,"
EarthLink, 2005-MAR-13, at:
Copyright © 2005
to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2005-MAR-15
Latest update: 2008-JUN-26
Author: B.A. Robinson