HOUSTON VOICE www.houstonvoice.com
MARCH 18, 2005
I national news
Calif, ruling could rekindle national marriage debate
CALIFORNIA, continued from Page 1
The cases, known collectively as Woo, et
al v. Lockyer, et al were brought by Lambda
Legal, the National Center for Lesbian
Rights and the ACLU on behalf of same-sex
couples who were denied marriage licenses,
and the gay rights groups Our Families
Coalition and Equality California.
In 2000, California voters passed Prop.
22, which states, "Only marriage between a
man and a woman is valid or recognized in
California." The initiative passed with 61
Four years later, San Francisco Mayor
Gavin Newsom determined that the
California Constitution's guarantees of
equality and due process required him to
grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. On Feb. 12, 2004, San Francisco began
issuing marriage licenses in defiance of
Prop 22. More than 4,000 marriage licenses
were granted to same-sex couples before the
California Supreme Court ruled on Aug. 12,
2004 that San Francisco did not have the
authority to issue marriage licenses to
same-sex couples. The California Supreme
Court nullified the same-sex marriages but
did not rule on the constitutionality of denying marriage to same-sex couples.
"Today's decision is a landmark for the
law and an important development for the
entire nation," stated ACLU Attorney
Christine Sun. "With plain but compelling
logic, the judge has shown us all why in a
nation committed to fairness, gays and lesbians must not be shut out of marriage. But
this decision is most important to the thousands of same-sex couples who desperately
need the protection that marriage gives, and
who deserve the dignity it brings."
"It was a giant step forward for our families," said Eddie Gutierrez, communications director for Equality California,
which joined the suit as a group that advocates for the rights of lesbians and gays.
"[The] ruling affirms that same-sex families deserve equal treatment under the law."
"There is opposition to this ruling, said
Gutierrez, but it is weakened when stories
of gay and lesbian people are shared in the
press, in the court and all over as they have
Representatives from both sides said
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to allow more than 4,000 gay couples to get married last year
led to this week's Superior Court ruling that overturned the state's law that limits marriage to heterosexuals
only. (File photo by AP)
they expect that the case will be appealed
and will go through the appellate process
and on to the California Supreme Court.
California politics have been turning
toward ballot measures and referendums
of late and both social conservatives and
gay rights advocates expect an effort to
amend California's Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.
Gutierrez said he believes that a marriage amendment would be defeated in
"This is still a road that we can win on,"
said Gutierrez, "because California is full
of fair-minded people."
Equality California is working to promote Assembly Bill 19, which was introduced by assemblyman Mark Leno and will
be considered in the 2005 legislative session.
AB19 would restore the gender-neutral language in the part of California's Family
Code that deals with marriage. Until 1977,
California's marriage law defined marriage
as "a personal relationship arising out of a
civil contract between two persons." AB 19
would also explicitly recognize civil mar
riage as a fundamental human right.
While Kramer's ruling in favor of samesex marriage rights is a clear victory for
marriage equality activists, Equality
California sees the gain within the context
of a broad struggle for gay and lesbian
rights, said Gutierrez.
"We are working to ban bias in the court
room, to change the gay panic defense rule,
to promote insurance equality based on
gender ... this will be a landmark year for
In an interview on MSNBC's Hardball
with Chris Matthews on Monday, California
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that if the
California Supreme Court ruled in favor of
same-sex marriage he would not support a
constitutional amendment to ban it.
While marriage equality proponents celebrated the California decision, conservatives
heaped criticism on the ruling and renewed
commitments to stop same-sex marriage.
"For the second time in the last month,
an aberrant judge has launched a judicial
assault on the bedrock of our society,"
Family Research Council President Tony
Perkins said in a statement. "We now look
to the California Supreme Court to restore
some sanity to the judicial process and
overturn [Monday's] court decision, which
if upheld will wreak havoc on our society,
redefining the institution of marriage and
denying children a mother or a father."
In an online statement. Rev. Louis P.
Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values
Coalition, an inter-denominational public
policy organization speaking on behalf of
over 43,000 churches, called Judge Kramer's
decision an example of "judicial tyranny"
and said it proved the necessity of passing a
constitutional amendment in California to
restrict marriage to opposite sex couples
According to Human Rights Watch, 13
states passed marriage amendments in
2004 and 21 more states are expected to vote
on marriage amendments in 2005 and 2006.
Kansas residents are scheduled to vote on
the issue of a constitutional ban of gay marriage when they go to the polls on April 5.
"There is no question that the clergy who
are supporting the marriage amendment here
want to use what happened in California to
mobilize their base here." said Cyd Slayton,
media spokesperson for Kansans for Fairness,
a group organizing efforts across Kansas to
oppose the proposed marriage amendment,
which would prohibit same-sex marriage.
Slayten said the coalition is working to
build bridges in a tough political climate
with little time and even less money.
According to Caroline McKnight of the
Mainstream Coalition, a group opposing the
amendment, there is no financial data available on the groups organizing around the
marriage amendment in Kansas yet because
they are not required to file with the Kansas
Ethics Commission until March 21.
McKnight characterized the comparative financial situations of the pro and anti
marriage amendment groups as a "David
and Goliath situation" with those opposing
the amendment as David.
"Pro-marriage amendment lawn signs are
proliferating like dandelions," McKnight
said, "and those don't come for free."
McKnight said she believes most of the
money for the campaign that supports the
marriage amendment is coming from out
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