Press Room

February 20, 2004


HRC Applauds Developments in San Francisco, Marriage Licenses Will Continue To Be Issued to Same-Sex

Same-Sex Couples Deserve the Full Equality Provided Through a Marriage License, Say GLBT Advocates

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign today applauded the ruling of the Superior Court in San Francisco, which allows San Francisco to continue issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The court refused to issue a temporary restraining order or a stay that could have halted the issuance of licenses, saying that those opposed to the issuance of the licenses had failed to produced any competent evidence of any harm to themselves or to anyone. A hearing on the substantive and constitutional issues at hand will be held at a later date that is yet to be determined.

The court also allowed the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Equality California, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, and Lambda Legal to intervene in the case on behalf of some of the same-sex couples who have married there in the past week, including Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, the first lesbian couple to marry in San Francisco.

"It is our great hope that what is happening in San Francisco will be a lesson to the country - for the overwhelming majority of Americans, nothing has changed. But for same-sex couples and their families, this represents a sea change - one that ensures their families are finally granted fundamental rights and protections under the law," said HRC President Cheryl, Jacques.

Last week, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom made national history when he ordered the city to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in order to meet the state constitutional mandate of equal protection based on gender and sexual orientation. Newsom maintains that denying same-sex couples the rights and protections of marriage is a form of discrimination.
"It is extremely heartening to see Mayor Newsom standing up against discrimination and working to protect all of his constituents equally under the law," said Jacques.

"Mayor Newsom's leadership, vision and courage are inspiring," said Kate Kendell, executive director of the NCLR. "For the first time we've seen thousands of couples publicly declare their love and commitment to take care of each other with the support and endorsement of the City of San Francisco. The Mayor's action provides an unprecedented opportunity for a rich and thoughtful dialogue about the importance of legal recognition of our relationships."

"Mayor Newsom's vision and leadership have moved us light years forward in just one week," said Jon Davidson, senior counsel for Lambda Legal's Western Regional Office. "Thanks to Mayor Newsom and the City of San Francisco, we now have thousands of people who are living proof that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples provides protections and support to many people without hurting anyone. Couples outside Massachusetts badly need the protections and support marriage provides, and they need them where they live."

"We applaud Mayor Newsom for taking a clear stand for fundamental fairness and equality for lesbian and gay couples," said Jennifer Levi, senior staff attorney at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the Boston-based legal group that won court victories on the right to marry in Massachusetts. "For too long lesbians and gay men have been denied the security, protection and mutual support provided by legal marriage, slowly that injustice is being rectified."

"Mayor Newsom clearly takes his oath of office seriously. He swore to uphold the California Constitution, and that constitution promises equal treatment to everybody," said Matt Coles, director of the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "When two adults make a commitment to build a life together, to love, trust and compromise, they should not be denied the right to marry simply because they are lesbian or gay."