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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.


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:  Adoption

Although there are frequently social and legal barriers to overcome, adoption is an important way in which lesbian and gay male couples create families.

social sciences >> Overview:  AIDS Law

AIDS law comprises the legal principles contained in the body of statutes, regulations, administrative rulings, and judicial decisions that emerged in response to legal issues presented by the AIDS epidemic.

social sciences >> Overview:  Anti-discrimination Statutes and Ordinances

Anti-discrimination statutes and ordinances have made a real difference in the lives of millions of glbtq individuals.

social sciences >> Overview:  Custody Litigation

While the courts of some states have been almost unremittingly hostile to gay men and lesbians involved in custody litigation, others have declared that glbtq parents have the same rights and responsibilities as other parents.

social sciences >> Overview:  Domestic Partnerships

"Domestic partnership" is the generic term for a variety of forms of legal and institutional recognition of same-sex couples that fall short of same-sex marriage.

social sciences >> Overview:  Family

Many glbtq people reject a fixed definition of family imposed by society, and instead claim the right to define their own families as they choose.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay Rights Movement, U. S.

The U.S. gay rights movement has made significant progress toward achieving equality for glbtq Americans, and in the process has become more inclusive and diverse, but much remains to be done.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay-Straight Alliances

Gay-straight alliances are youth-led, school- or community-based groups designed to assist glbtq students, children from glbtq families, and heterosexual students who want to be allies of their glbtq peers.

social sciences >> Overview:  Immigration Law

Those countries that allow the immigration of glbtq persons based on persecution in their home countries often raise difficulties or apply the existing laws inequitably, especially in the case of glbtq couples who apply for entry as domestic partners.

social sciences >> Overview:  Parenting

Even though glbtq people have been parents throughout history, recent political movements and advances in fertility technology have given rise to a much more visible and self-identified gay and lesbian parents.

social sciences >> Overview:  Same-Sex Marriage

Lesbian and gay couples have been fighting for the freedom to marry since the dawn of the modern glbtq struggle for equality; despite some success abroad, progress toward same-sex marriage in the United States has been slow.

social sciences >> Overview:  Seniors' Resources

As the aging population has grown, more organizations have emerged that are dedicated to providing much-needed services and information, along with socialization and activism opportunities, to glbtq senior citizens.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sexual Citizenship

The concept of sexual citizenship draws attention to the political aspects of erotics and the sexual component of politics.

arts >> Overview:  Sports: Gay Male

While sports, at least on the major competitive level, may be the final closet for gay men, there have nevertheless been a number of gay male elite athletes.

arts >> Overview:  Sports: Lesbian

Although lesbians and athletics have long been identified with each other, lesbian athletes, despite great achievements, still face numerous obstacles.

arts >> Overview:  Sports: Transgender Issues

Fears and misconceptions about transgendered and intersexed athletes abound.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender Issues in the Law

Despite some recent progress, people who do not conform to society's gender norms continue to experience discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, marriage and family litigation, medical care, prisons, schools, and hate crimes protection.

social sciences >> Achtenberg, Roberta

American activist and politician Roberta Achtenberg is the first openly gay person to be confirmed by the United States Senate for a major political post.

social sciences >> ACLU LGBT & AIDS Project

For more than four decades, the ACLU has been at the forefront of litigation and education designed to secure glbtq rights on a variety of fronts.

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)

New England's leading legal organization dedicated to equal justice for glbtq individuals and families, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) provides litigation, advocacy, and educational work in all areas of glbtq civil rights.

social sciences >> Griffin, Chad

Chad Griffin co-founded the American Foundation for Equal Rights to sponsor a legal challenge to Proposition 8; in June 2012, he assumed the helm of the Human Rights Campaign.

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)

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were among the founders of a lesbian liberation movement that developed and enlarged the very definition of lesbianism.

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.


"Just a Case of 'Lawyerly Ego'?" (July 14, 2009):

Knight, Heather. "Newsmaker Profile: Donna Hitchens: Compassion Hallmark of San Francisco's Top Judge." San Francisco Chronicle (December 9, 2002):

Lowery, George. "Unfair and Unequal: Attorney Minter Champions Rights of Sexual Minorities." Cornell University Chronicle Online (November 29, 2005):

Najafi, Yusef. "Legal Eagle Lands in D. C." Metro Weekly (October 9, 2008):

National Center for Lesbian Rights website:

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):


    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  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2009 glbtq, Inc.  


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