California Becomes Second State to Recognize Marriage Equality for Same-Sex Couples

by HRC Staff

HRC Hails Landmark Decision As Latest Step Toward Full Equality

WASHINGTON - Today, the California Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision and ruled that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as opposite-sex couples under the state constitution. The court ruled that it is a violation of the state constitution to deny same-sex couples the right to marry, and that providing rights to same-sex couples through a separate system of domestic partnerships does not satisfy the state constitution.

"This is a historic day for the state of California, and a long-awaited day for the plaintiffs in this case and their families," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "The California Supreme Court has made clear that same-sex couples in committed relationships and their families deserve the same level of respect afforded to opposite-sex couples. The court did its job by ensuring that the state constitution provides the same rights and protections for everyone. This is a decision that strengthens California families."

Solmonese continued, "We congratulate and commend the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, the ACLU, Heller Ehrman, the Law Office of David C. Codell, Equality California, Our Family Coalition and, of course, the courageous plaintiff couples and their families who looked to the courts to defend their rights."

The court's decision involved several consolidated cases, collectively referred to as In re Marriage Cases. The cases were filed in 2004. In March 2005, a state trial court ruled that, under the state constitution, same-sex couples must be permitted to marry. In October 2006, the California Court of Appeal reversed the trial court in a 2-1 decision. The California Supreme Court's decision today overrules the Court of Appeal's decision.

A growing number of states are providing relationship recognition to same-sex couples. California joins Massachusetts to become the second state to recognize civil marriage for same-sex couples. Five other states provide same-sex couples with access to all the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, either through civil unions or domestic partnerships. Three other states and Washington, D.C. provide same-sex couples with at least some of the basic benefits and protections made available to married heterosexual couples. However, because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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