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Case seeking the right for same-sex couples to marry in California


In 2004, the State Supreme Court of California ordered the city and county of San Francisco to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and said that legal action could proceed about whether California’s restriction of marriage to different-sex couples violates the state’s constitution. Lambda Legal, the National Center of Lesbian Rights and the ACLU promptly filed a lawsuit against the state to win the right to marry for same-sex couples throughout California. The case has moved through the California court system and in May 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that barring lesbian and gay couples from civil marriage violates the California Constitution.


California’s constitution guarantees equality, liberty and privacy for all. In 2005, the California Legislature passed the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, which would have ensured equal treatment under the law by allowing same-sex couples to marry in California. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill. The California Legislature passed the bill again in 2007 by an even wider margin. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed it a second time, saying the question should be decided by the California Supreme Court and that he would respect the high court’s decision.

Lambda Legal’s Impact

This landscape-shifting victory gives gay and lesbian couples all of the rights, benefits and obligations of marriage under state law, along with the equal dignity that comes with the word itself. Because more gay and lesbian couples make their home in California than in any other state, winning complete legal equality for same-sex couples in the Golden State provides secure legal protection and equal respect to many thousands of law-abiding, tax-paying families. It also helps show the rest of the country that ending discrimination against gay and lesbian families has only positive effects.