ACLU Responds to California Supreme Court's Decisions to Halt Same-Sex Marriages in San Francisco

March 11, 2004 12:00 am

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Statement of Tamara Lange, Staff Attorney, ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court issued a interim decision today ordering San Francisco to stop issuing licenses to same-sex couples until the Court has a chance to make a decision in the case. The Court ordered the parties to file written arguments in March, and said it would set a hearing for May or June. There is no timetable for a decision after that hearing.

Although the decision is temporary, it still has a dramatic effect on those couples who were turned away at City Hall today – or scheduled to obtain a license tomorrow – who will now be denied the opportunity to marry.

For the more than 3,600 lesbian and gay couples who are already married, the Court’s decision does not address or question the validity of their marriages.

Nor does the Court’s decision say anything about whether the California Constitution allows the state’s marriage laws to discriminate. We believe that at some point, our state courts will recognize that denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry is discrimination that violates our constitution. It is not clear whether the Supreme Court will address this — the ultimate question — when it considers this case. It may well leave that issue to the lower courts.

Today we look back, almost disbelieving, on the time when many Americans did not tolerate marriage between Catholic and Protestants, or between blacks and whites. Someday, we’ll look back in equal disbelief at this time when our laws denied adults the right to marry just because they were gay or lesbian.

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