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National Lawyers Guild’s Queer Committee Celebrates California Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage

May 20, 2008
3:22 PM

CONTACT: National Lawyers Guild
Sara Sturtevant, NLG Queer Committee,, 831-531-4342
Marjorie Cohn, NLG President,; 858-204-3565

National Lawyers Guild’s Queer Committee Celebrates California Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage
NEW YORK - May 20 - The National Lawyers Guild celebrates the California Supreme Court ruling of May 15, 2008 that it is unconstitutional to bar same-sex couples from marriage.

The Court ruled that marriage is a fundamental constitutional right, and laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation must be judged by the same high level of scrutiny as classifications based on race, sex, or religion. The court's application of the "strict scrutiny" standard to sexual orientation is a new and important standard of review.

The court found that the right to marry "constitutes a vitally important attribute of the fundamental interest in liberty and personal autonomy that the California Constitution secures to all persons." This inclusive decision means that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons are important members of the citizenry and may not be legislated into second class citizens by virtue of their sexual orientation.

The National Lawyers Guild applauds the court’s rejection of the “separate but equal” statutory scheme put forth in the form of domestic partnerships created by California’s state legislature. The court held that “affording same-sex couples only a separate and differently named family relationship will, as a realistic matter, impose appreciable harm on same-sex couples and their children, because denying such couples access to the familiar and highly favored designation of marriage is likely to cast doubt on whether the official family relationship of same sex couples enjoys dignity equal to that of opposite-sex couples…”

Public opinion about marriage equality has changed dramatically since the 2000 law limiting marriage to same-sex couples. In 2005, California's state legislature became the first in the nation to enact a same-sex marriage law without a court order compelling it to do so; Schwarzenegger later vetoed that law.

"This ruling is consistent with California’s constitution and democratic process," NLG Queer Committee co-chair and Aptos, California resident Sara Sturtevant said. "This is not an example of what many have described as 'judicial activism' overruling the voting public’s decision."

The Queer Caucus of the National Lawyers Guild appreciates Governor Schwarzenegger’s support in opposing the proposed referendum to amend the state’s constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage. The governor has said that he respects the Court’s decision and as governor will uphold its ruling.

Sixty years after its landmark decision in Perez v. Sharp, making California the first state to strike down the ban on interracial marriage, the California Supreme Court has made history again as the second state court to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage. The Queer Caucus of the National Lawyers Guild congratulates the court on its landmark decision In re Marriage cases that finds its precedent in that first historic decision in Perez.

The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association, which did not admit people of color, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.


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