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Attorney General Bill Lockyer Asks State Supreme Court to Resolve Same-Sex Marriage Litigation

Friday, July 1, 2005
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SAN FRANCISCO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today formally asked the California Supreme Court to agree to hear and resolve the lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of California’s laws that prohibit same-sex marriage. If granted, Lockyer’s request will ensure that Californians obtain a statewide, binding and final judgment on same-sex marriage much sooner than if the traditional appellate process is followed, which could delay a final ruling until 2007 or later.

The Attorney General’s request comes almost exactly one-month after filing notices of appeal of the same-sex marriage judgments issued by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard A. Kramer. The trial court ruled California’s statutes that limit marriage to one man and one woman violate the state Constitution’s equal protection guarantees.

Pursuant to the State Constitution and California’s Rules of Court, the state Supreme Court is authorized to transfer to itself a case that is currently pending in a Court of Appeal if it involves an issue of great public importance that should be promptly resolved.

In his petition filed with the state Supreme Court, the Attorney General stressed the same-sex marriage cases present an issue of great interest to many Californians who would benefit greatly from a binding, statewide ruling on this contentious issue. As Lockyer said in his brief:

“Review by the Court of Appeal will necessarily and substantially extend the uncertainty regarding whether California’s marriage laws are constitutional. Same-sex couples should be given a prompt determination as to whether they can marry, and should not have to put their lives and affairs on hold indefinitely while this matter works its way through several levels of court proceedings. In addition, federal, state and local public officials should be given prompt clarification of their duties and responsibilities under California’s marriage laws.”

The Supreme Court has no deadline to act on the Attorney General’s request. If the Supreme Court declines to transfer the same-sex marriage cases to itself, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco will retain jurisdiction over them. Under the standard procedures used by the appellate courts, it is likely the District Court of Appeal will not rule on the constitutionality of state law until sometime in 2006. A petition for review then would be filed with the California Supreme Court by the losing party, and a decision from the high court could be issued as late as 2007 or beyond.

The same-sex marriage litigation involves four separate lawsuits: City and County of San Francisco v. State of California, et al.; Clinton v. State of California, et al.; Tyler v. State of California, et al.; and, Woo v. Lockyer et al.

While separate petitions were filed for each of the four cases, they are identical in content. A copy of the Attorney General’s petition can be found at his website: www.ag.ca.gov/newsalerts/index.htm.

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