Suit Filed To Block SF Weddings
by Mark Worrall, 365Gay.com from the Web, February 13, 2004
San Francisco, CA -- As San Francisco continued to perform weddings for same-sex couples Friday, a conservative group went to court seeking an injunction to put an end to the nuptials.
The Campaign for California Families sought a restraining order from Superior Court to prevent the city from issuing more licenses or officiating at more ceremonies inside the ornate City Hall, and to nullify those marriages already performed.
The court turned down their request for an immediate order but will hold a hearing Tuesday at 2 pm to consider the issue and hear from lawyers for the city of San Francisco, and Lambda Legal which is representing many of the couples who have married.
Mayor Newsom said the city is prepared to fight the Campaign for California Families in court.
"I'm not interested with moving forward with a separate but equal process for people to engage in marriage," the mayor said Friday.
"The city is trying to protect people's constitutional rights, and we will defend that vigorously in court," said Lambda lawyer Jon Davidson.
The timing of the first weddings took everyone by surprise, especially conservatives opposed to gay marriage.
"Frankly it was a brilliant strategy. They got it done. The unfortunate fact is that these people who think they are married may find out Tuesday they are not," said Richard Ackerman, an attorney for the conservative group.
Thursday, nearly 100 couples were married and dozens of others obtained marriage licenses (story) after Newsom ordered the county clerk to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Friday, when the clerk's office opened more than 300 couples had already queued up.
Ackerman called the mayor's actions despicable.
"Apparently, Mayor Newsom felt he's above the law and like a dictator, could simply dictate what the law should be. And he has no authority to do that, either under the city charter or state law," Ackerman said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Friday shied away from commenting on the marriage issue, and Attorney General Bill Lockyer said through a spokesperson he hasn't been asked to issue an opinion on the legality of same-sex marriages under California law.
But Lockyer has asked his civil rights enforcement section to review how the Massachusetts' legal debate might apply to California law. "California's constitution provides broader equal protection rights than other states," spokeswoman Hallye Jordan said.
Last November the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that denying gay couples the right to marry was illegal under the state constitution.
Additionally, on Thursday, California state Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) formally introduced legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage throughout California.
"It is a tandem challenge," Leno said of the bill and San Francisco's decision to let gay couples marry. "One will be heard in a judicial setting, and the other in a legislative setting."
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