Compiled by Dawn Wolfe
California: Proponents of equal marriage rights told a judge that arguments over whether marriage is designed to foster procreation and whether gays make good parents are irrelevant to their case. In briefs filed Dec. 3, the couples’ lawyers pointed out to the Superior Court Judge that California’s Legislature and Supreme Court have already settled the procreation-parenting question by allowing gays to have children through adoption or reproductive technology. The judge has set a Dec. 22 hearing on the constitutional issues raised in the couples’ lawsuit and a companion case brought by the city of San Francisco. Both sides have vowed to appeal the cases to the California Supreme Court.
A lawmaker planned on Dec. 6 to reintroduce a bill to make equal marriage rights legal. The “Marriage License Nondiscrimination Act” would amend a section of California’s family code that defines marriage as “a personal relationship arising out of a civil contract between a man and woman” to read “between two persons.”
Louisiana: An anti-equal marriage amendment approved by nearly four of five voters threatens to undercut the property and contract rights of both non-married heterosexuals and gays, the state Supreme Court was told Dec. 1. The high court heard arguments on a judge’s decision in October striking down the amendment on the grounds that it violated another provision of the state constitution – the requirement than an amendment only cover one subject.
New Jersey: Submission of a friend-of-the-court brief signed by over 100 New Jersey clergy in support of Lambda Legal’s lawsuit seeking marriage equality was denied while the anti-gay Catholic Conference motion to join was granted. It is unclear why the favorable brief was rejected while the Catholic Conference was allowed to join amici opposing the lawsuit. Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit in state court in June 2002 on behalf of seven lesbian and gay couples. The lawsuit is based solely on the New Jersey Constitution, arguing that denying marriage to same-sex couples violates the state constitution’s guarantees of equality and liberty for all in the state. The New Jersey Supreme Court will have the last word in the case. Oral arguments before the appeals court were heard Dec. 7.
Oregon: A state constitutional ban on equal marriage rights took effect Dec. 2 as the state Supreme Court awaited final briefs from lawyers to determine whether nearly 3,000 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples are valid. The ACLU also is asking the state Supreme Court to request a civil union law from the Legislature to allow same-sex couples rights and benefits under the equal marriage ban.
Wisconsin: More than 150 religious leaders met Dec. 4 to discuss a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and how to fight its passage. An amendment would have to pass two consecutive sessions of the Legislature before state residents would vote on it. The measure passed the Legislature for the first time in March and is expected to be a primary issue when lawmakers meet again in January.