Gay groups challenge California gay marriage ban

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In briefs filed last week with the California Supreme Court, a coalition of gay groups contend that California violates its own constitution by denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry.

“When two people fall in love and decide to get married, they are saying to the world, ‘this is my family; this is my dream for the future,'” Tamara Lange, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a release.

“We think the court will see that same-sex couples fall in love just like everyone else and shouldn’t be denied the ability to fulfill their dreams through marriage.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Centre for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal filed the briefs in the co-ordinated marriage cases now before the California Supreme Court.

They respond to arguments presented by the state of California, which is defending the discriminatory law, and to four supplemental questions asked by the California Supreme Court on June 20th.

NCLR, Lambda Legal, the ACLU, Heller Ehrman LLP and the Law Office of David C. Codell represent 15 same-sex couples, Equality California and Our Family Coalition.

“Everyone knows marriage has no substitute,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Centre for Lesbian Rights.

“Marriage is the way loving couples express their commitment and love, and this is true for lesbian and gay couples as well, who long for the opportunity to marry.

“The time has come to bring this unconstitutional discrimination to an end.”

The California Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last year after the California Court of Appeal reversed a decision by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer finding that barring same-sex couples from marriage unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of sex and violates the fundamental right to marry.

“Anything less than marriage leaves lesbian and gay couples in a confusing and discriminatory twilight zone,” said Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jennifer C. Pizer.

“We know this because we answer the distress calls every day – calls that began with the first statewide domestic partner bill in 1999 and haven’t slowed as the law broadened over the years.

“To the contrary, the distress calls have increased as more couples register, hoping to shield their families and encounter inconsistent, incomplete protections. We’ve welcomed the Supreme Court’s invitation to explain how far domestic partnerships fall short of full marriage.”

On September 17th more than 250 religious and civil rights organisations, including the California NAACP, Mexican American Legal Defence and Educational Fund, California Council of Churches, Asian Pacific American Legal Centre and National Black Justice Coalition, will file friend-of-the-court amicus briefs in support of marriage for same-sex couples.

The briefing process concludes with responses to amicus briefs, which are due October. The court will set oral arguments at the conclusion of the briefing.

The 15 represented couples have made life-long commitments to each other.

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin have been together more than 50 years.

Karen Shane and Judy Sokolower have been together more than 30 years.

The couples come from across the state and from all walks of life, with some working in business, some in education and others in health professions. Many are raising children together. Others are retired.

The Supreme Court is considering six marriage cases under the title In re Marriage Cases. The briefs and other information about the case are available at

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