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social sciences

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National Center for Lesbian Rights  
 
page: 1  2  3  

In the litigation following San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's 2004 order that the city clerk issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Minter prevailed in the initial trial, but this favorable judgment was overruled by the California Court of Appeals, thus setting the stage for the state's highest court to rule on the issue.

On March 4, 2008, Minter argued passionately that the laws banning same-sex marriage in California were unconstitutional. On May 15, the Court released its decision: a 4-3 verdict that declared not only that the laws defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman were unconstitutional, but also that the state's equal protection clause must be interpreted to require that claims of sexual orientation discrimination be accorded the highest category of scrutiny.

Sponsor Message.

In the stirring majority opinion, Chief Justice Ronald George wrote that "The right to marry . . . the person of one's choice . . . is of fundamental significance both to society and the individual."

With this decision, the Court cleared the way for same-sex couples in California to begin marrying on June 17. However, the 2008 summer of love came to an end on November 4, when California voters passed Proposition 8, the ballot measure that declared that in the Golden State only unions between one man and one woman could be recognized as marriage. The next day, the NCLR, joined by Lambda Legal and the ACLU and other groups, returned to the California Supreme Court with a petition asking the Court to rule Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

On May 26, 2009, in a 6-1 decision, the Court upheld Proposition 8. All seven justices, however, ruled that the more than 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place between June 16 and November 4, 2008, are fully valid and recognized by the State of California.

Although the Court rejected almost all the arguments made by NCLR and the other organizations seeking to have Proposition 8 invalidated, it dramatically narrowed the scope of Proposition 8 to the definition of a word and in the process strengthened the state's domestic partnership law, asserting that domestic partnerships must enjoy all the constitutionally based incidents of marriage. The decision characterized Proposition 8 as carving out a "narrow and limited exception" to the state's protection of same-sex couples, reserving the designation of "marriage" to opposite-sex couples.

In a press release issued soon after the ruling, Minter stated, "Today's decision is a terrible blow to same-sex couples who share the same hopes and dreams for their families as other Californians. But our path ahead is now clear. We will go back to the ballot box and we will win."

It may be, however, that Proposition 8 may be repealed judicially rather than at the ballot box. Soon after the California Supreme Court's ruling, two same-sex couples filed suit in the United States District Court for Northern California, challenging Proposition 8. The plaintiffs in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, as the suit is known, argue that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of due process and equal protection of the laws. The lawsuit was filed by Republican former Solicitor General Theodore Olson and Democratic attorney David Boies on behalf of the American Foundation for Equal Rights.

Soon after the filing of this lawsuit, several groups with experience litigating glbtq rights, including NCLR, the ACLU, and Lambda Legal, issued a joint statement questioning whether now was the right time to take the question of marriage equality to a federal court. These groups had scrupulously avoided federal courts out of fear that an unfavorable ruling by the United States Supreme Court might establish a precedent that would set back the marriage equality movement for a generation.

When Olson and Boies were not persuaded by their plea to wait until a more opportune moment, NCLR and the other organizations then filed a motion to intervene in the case. Olson and Boies opposed the plea to intervene, arguing that the participation of these groups that had opposed the suit from its inception might undermine the suit. Ultimately, Judge Vaughan Walker, who has expedited the case, denied the motion.

Conclusion

For over three decades, NCLR has battled in the courts for equal rights for glbtq citizens. Along with Lambda Legal, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), and the ACLU's LGBT Project, NCLR has been in the forefront of the quest for justice and equal protection under the law.

Victoria Shannon

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social sciences >> Overview:  Family

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social sciences >> Achtenberg, Roberta

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social sciences >> ACLU LGBT & AIDS Project

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social sciences >> Bonauto, Mary

American attorney Mary Bonauto, civil rights project director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, has won major rulings that have brought the promise of equal rights nearer to reality.

social sciences >> Equality California (EQCA)

Equality California (EQCA) is one of the largest and fastest growing statewide glbtq advocacy and civil rights organizations in the United States.

social sciences >> Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)

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social sciences >> Griffin, Chad

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social sciences >> Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund

The largest glbtq legal advocacy group in the United States, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund has been fighting for the civil rights of queer Americans and people with HIV/AIDS for over three decades.

social sciences >> Lyon, Phyllis, (b. 1924) and Del Martin (1921-2008)

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literature >> Ortiz-Taylor, Sheila

A prolific writer and respected teacher, Sheila Ortiz-Taylor has bracketed her career with groundbreaking achievements.

social sciences >> Proposition 8 (California)

Proposition 8, also known as the California Marriage Protection Act, was the ballot proposition that amended the California state constitution to ban same-sex marriage; after prolonged litigation in both state and federal court, it was finally struck down in June 2013.

social sciences >> Romero, Anthony

In 2001, Anthony D. Romero became the first Latino and first openly gay man to lead the American Civil Liberties Union, the nation's leading public interest law firm.

arts >> Whipple, Diane

Diane Whipple, the coach of the women's lacrosse team at Saint Mary's College in California, was killed in a dog-mauling; the response of her partner helped establish the right of same-sex partners to equal treatment with heterosexuals.

social sciences >> Wolfson, Evan

Evan Wolfson has participated in some of the crucial legal battles in the struggle for glbtq rights, and has been particularly visible in the quest for marriage equality.


    Bibliography
   

"Just a Case of 'Lawyerly Ego'?" Advocate.com (July 14, 2009): http://www.advocate.com/exclusive_detail_ektid98191.asp

Knight, Heather. "Newsmaker Profile: Donna Hitchens: Compassion Hallmark of San Francisco's Top Judge." San Francisco Chronicle (December 9, 2002): http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article/article?f=/c/a/2002/12/09/BA141526.DTL

Lowery, George. "Unfair and Unequal: Attorney Minter Champions Rights of Sexual Minorities." Cornell University Chronicle Online (November 29, 2005): http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Nov05/Shannon_Minter.gl.html

Najafi, Yusef. "Legal Eagle Lands in D. C." Metro Weekly (October 9, 2008): http://www.metroweekly.com/gauge/?ak=3821

National Center for Lesbian Rights website: http://www.nclrights.org

Sandeen, Autumn. "San Diego's Marriage Town Hall: NCLR's Kate Kendall Talks about Prop 8 Legal Case." Pam's House Blend (April 3, 2009): http://www.pamshouseblend.com/diary/10217/san-diegos-marriage-town-hall-nclrs-kate-kendall-talks-about-prop-8-legal-case

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Shannon, Victoria  
    Entry Title: National Center for Lesbian Rights  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2009  
    Date Last Updated September 15, 2009  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/national_center_lesbian_rights.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
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    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2009 glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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