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San Fran Judge: "No rational purpose exists for limiting
marriage to opposite sex partners."| by Valerie Schmalz | March 14,
SAN FRANCISCO, March 14, 2005 | A San Francisco judges ruling
against Californias 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 todays 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 mayors spokesperson said. The opinion will likely be appealed
to the California Supreme Court by Attorney General Bill Lockyer and several
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
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 societyall
rational reasons to preserve the definition of marriage," Dolesji said
in a statement. The California Catholic Conference represents the states
Dolesji said he hopes the California Supreme Court will overturn Judge Kramers
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 Kramers ruling. Mays
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 judges 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
"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 ONeel, chief of staff for California Republican Assemblyman
Chuck DeVore, said the judges reasoning was "wholly specious."
"The state has the ability to limit the right to do anything,"
ONeel 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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