Press Room

February 12, 2004

Category: Domestic Partners

HRC Lauds San Francisco for Taking Historic Step by Officially Marrying Same-Sex Couples

Hard-Working, Tax-Paying GLBT Citizens Deserve the Same Rights and Protections under Law as Other Citizens, Says HRC

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign today lauded San Francisco for becoming the first jurisdiction in the nation to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The licenses were issued after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome told the San Francisco Chronicle Feb. 10, 2004, "A little more than a month ago, I took the oath of office here at City Hall and swore to uphold California's Constitution, which clearly outlaws all forms of discrimination. Denying basic rights to members of our community will not be tolerated."

"The women married today, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, have spent the last 51 years of their lives together. There is absolutely no good reason for a couple so loving and so committed to each other to be denied the right to marry and the thousands of protections that come with it," said HRC President Cheryl Jacques. "Today's historic step will result only in making families - like Del and Phyllis - stronger. Nobody's marriage will be harmed by providing more security to them. In fact, the historic step taken today will result in increased protections of many families, which will make America stronger."

Also today, Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced Assembly Bill 1967, a measure to prohibit the denial of marriage licenses by the state of California to same-sex couples.

In September 2003, the California Legislature passed and Gov. Gray Davis signed AB 205 - a broad measure that will provide couples who are registered as domestic partners with some basic protections such as the right to make funeral arrangements, the joint ownership of property, the ability to authorize medical treatment, financial support during and after a relationship and mutual responsibility for debts. Because the measure does not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2005, same-sex couples in the state currently lack those critical protections. Even when the law does go into effect these partnerships will not be recognized across state lines and will not grant any of the 1,049 federal benefits, rights and obligations extended to married couples. These include important rights like Social Security survivor benefits and the ability to continue a partner's health care coverage upon the loss of a job under COBRA.

"Simply put, civil unions and domestic partnerships create a separate and unequal status for same-sex couples," added Jacques. "While these laws may be a step forward in the fight for fairness, the ultimate goal is full equality under the law."