S.F. Judge & "Gay Marriage | Valerie Schmalz | March 14, 2005

San Fran Judge: "No rational purpose exists for limiting marriage to opposite sex partners."| by Valerie Schmalz | March 14, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO, March 14, 2005 | A San Francisco judge’s ruling against California’s ban on same sex marriage that would elevate marriage to a "human right" drew immediate criticism from the California Catholic Conference and grassroots organizations.

The California Catholic Conference called upon the state legislature to suspend consideration of a separate bill that would make marriage a "gender neutral" institution, while today’s ruling is under appeal.

The ruling by San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer does not mean City Hall will immediately start issuing same sex marriage licenses again, a mayor’s spokesperson said. The opinion will likely be appealed to the California Supreme Court by Attorney General Bill Lockyer and several other groups.

However, the elevation of marriage as a "human right," if upheld by higher courts, would likely mean that same sex marriage would eventually become the law of the land, pundits said. Sentiment across the country seems to be trending away from legalizing same sex marriage with eleven state imposing bans on same sex marriage in the last election. Massachusetts’ Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage last year and it remains the only state issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Judge Kramer wrote in an opinion issued March 14 that the state's ban on same-sex marriage violates "the basic human right to marry the person of one's choice."

Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, said he was disappointed in the ruling "which purports to strike down a ban of same-sex marriage for constitutional reasons."

"Judge Kramer made the surprising statement that ‘It appears that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite-sex partners.’ Yet marriage, by both custom and biology, is the source of family and children. That union of a man and a woman is sacramental to the Church, traditional to the public, and fundamental to civil society–all rational reasons to preserve the definition of marriage," Dolesji said in a statement. The California Catholic Conference represents the state’s Catholic bishops.

Dolesji said he hopes the California Supreme Court will overturn Judge Kramer’s ruling and called on the state legislature to suspend consideration of AB 19, a bill sponsored by a gay San Francisco assemblyman, Mark Leno, which would make marriage a "gender neutral" institution.

Five years ago, Californians passed a voter initiative, Proposition 22, which limited marriage to one man and one woman.

"The people of California spoke loudly and clearly when they approved a ban on same sex marriage. The judge's actions not only disregard the democratically expressed will of the people, but fly in the face of centuries of common law defining marriage as between a man and a woman," Catholics for the Common Good President Bill May said in reaction to Kramer’s ruling. May’s grassroots organization was the organizer, under the name Your Catholic Voice, of a pro-marriage prayer rally and procession in San Francisco that drew several thousand people and was led in the Rosary by San Francisco Archbishop William Levada. Levada was in Washington, D.C. and could not be reached immediately for comment.

The judge’s ruling was made in response to a series of lawsuits brought by the city of San Francisco and a dozen same-sex couples one year ago, after the California Supreme Court stopped Mayor Gavin Newsom from issuing same-sex marriage licenses in defiance of state law. About 4,000 licenses were issued beginning in February 2004, before the court stepped in March 2004. In August, the state's high court invalidated those marriage licenses and ruled that Newsom had overstepped his authority. Monday's ruling is not retroactive, and will not validate the licenses issued in the past.

Kramer said in his March 14th opinion that "it appears that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite sex partners."

The ruling by Judge Kramer addresses the constitutionality of the ban but does not release the city to begin issuing marriage licenses, said Darlene Chui, spokesperson for Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Gay rights activists were energized by the ruling, as reported by Gayopolis News.

"The judge's decision is clear: there's no rational reason for denying marriage and the promise of equality to same-sex couples," said Seth Kilbourn, Vice President for the Human Rights Campaign's Marriage Project. "Hard-working, tax-paying Californians are now one step closer to equal rights under law, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender. We laud the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda, the ACLU and the plaintiffs in this case for bringing their stories forward and securing this important victory for equality."

But the Brian O’Neel, chief of staff for California Republican Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, said the judge’s reasoning was "wholly specious."

"The state has the ability to limit the right to do anything," O’Neel said, noting that even in societies where homosexuality was accepted, marriage was a separate institution and remained between a man and a woman. "We limit the ability to marry to a man and a woman because the purpose of marriage is the procreation and education of children and that benefits society."

Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight. She worked as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University of San Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San Francisco. Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children.

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