LGBT Organizations Warn that Lawsuits Could Set Back Progress on Marriage for Same-Sex Couples

Freedom to Marry Press Release
May 27, 2009

In response to the California Supreme Court decision allowing Prop 8 to stand, four LGBT legal organizations and five other leading national LGBT groups are reminding the LGBT community that ill-timed lawsuits could set the fight for marriage back. The groups released a new publication, “Why the ballot box and not the courts should be the next step on marriage in California.” This publication discourages people from bringing premature lawsuits based on the federal Constitution because, without more groundwork, the U.S. Supreme Court likely is not yet ready to rule that same-sex couples cannot be barred from marriage. The groups also revised “Make Change, Not Lawsuits,” which was released after the California Supreme Court decision ending the ban on marriage for same-sex couples in California. This publication encourages couples who have legally married to ask friends, neighbors and institutions to honor their marriages, but discourages people from bringing lawsuits. (Link)

"Why the ballot box and not the courts should be the next step on marriage in California” is available at

"Make Change, Not Lawsuits" is available at

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California Supreme Court Fails to Overturn Proposition 8

New Ballot Campaign Needed to Restore the Freedom to Marry

The California Supreme Court today let stand Proposition 8, continuing marriage discrimination in California.  The Court refused to undo the 18,000 marriages that same-sex couples celebrated in 2008, so that those couples remain married even while other California couples are, for now, barred from joining in marriage.

“The California Supreme Court today failed to uphold the core principle of American constitutional government that a simple majority may not selectively vote away a fundamental right from a minority targeted for invidious, suspect reasons,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry.  “It is now going to be up to the people of California to undo Prop 8's discriminatory misstep through a ballot-measure in 2012 or sooner.  The Prop 8 campaign is over; the campaign to restore the freedom to marry and remove this blemish on the constitution and cruel hardship on California's gay couples and their families is now underway.”  

As the groundwork for a new ballot initiative to restore the freedom to marry in California and overturn Proposition 8 begins, rallies and opportunities for people to voice their disapproval of this decision and get involved with efforts to overturn this discrimination will take place across the state of California and the entire country over the next week.

“We all must take our anger and frustration over this disappointing decision and focus on the conversations and renewed, constructive engagement and persuasion needed to restore the freedom to marry,” Wolfson said.  “The most important thing we can all do is talk with those around us about why marriage equality is important to us and help more states, including California, follow the good example of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa, and the others that have ended exclusion from marriage.”

Freedom to Marry commends the leadership of National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the City and County of San Francisco, who represented six same-sex couples and Equality California in this case.    Thanks is also due to the array of civil rights groups and supportive organizations who filed amicus briefs in support of overturning Prop 8 including African-American, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific civil rights organizations; cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles; teachers and child-welfare professionals; religious leaders; businesses and labor unions; and advocates for same-sex couples and their families.

Despite today's flawed court ruling, momentum for the freedom to marry continues across the nation.  Since April, three more states—Iowa through court decision and Vermont and Maine through legislative action—have the freedom to marry, joining Massachusetts and Connecticut.

All eyes are now on New York, New Hampshire, and New Jersey, whose governors have pledged to sign the pending freedom to marry bills once they reach their desks.  New York's Assembly passed the marriage bill in May, and political leaders from across the state, including New York City's Independent/Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, have called on the State Senate to follow suit in the next few weeks.  New Hampshire’s Senate already approved the bill, but the House is still studying it in committee.

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Maine Becomes Fifth State to End Gay Couples’ Exclusion from Marriage

New York, May 6, 2009 —Today, Maine's Governor John Baldacci signed into law a freedom to marry bill overwhelmingly approved by the Senate and House. Maine now joins Iowa, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in ending the exclusion of gay couples from marriage.

"Throughout weeks of conversations, constituent visits, town halls, and hearings, Maine legislators carefully listened to the stories of families, neighbors, businesses, and professional groups from around the state, and then democratically voted to end the denial of marriage that unfairly harmed gay Mainers and served no legitimate purpose," said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry. "Couples that have made a personal commitment in life deserve an equal commitment under the law—and in Maine, that's called marriage."

Unless anti-gay forces take action, committed same-sex couples in Maine will be able to start getting married 90 days after adjournment of the legislative session, expected around the end of June. Opponents of equality are threatening to spend millions of dollars to gather signatures and mount an attack campaign to put a referendum on the November ballot.

"The fight is not over in Maine," Wolfson said. "To avoid a Prop 8-type assault in Maine, all who believe in fairness and equality under the law must take action now and over the next several months to ensure that the people in Maine get the information they need to reject the deceptive, anti-gay campaign we are likely to see mounted."

Freedom to Marry salutes the leadership of Equality Maine, who worked intensely in the legislature and the public over the last few years, and brought together a gay and non-gay coalition to build support for marriage equality in Maine who now will fight against any attempts to deny the freedom to marry.

Momentum for the freedom to marry continues across the nation. New Hampshire’s House and Senate passed a marriage bill, which now awaits action by the Governor. Marriage bills are pending in the New Jersey and New York legislatures, and the governors of both states have pledged to sign the bills once they reach their desks. The California Supreme Court is weighing a challenge to the discriminatory Proposition 8, brought by a broad array of civil rights organizations and other groups.

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Ashland church to perform gay marriages Saturday

January 9, 2009
A church in Ashland, Ore., will begin performing marriage ceremonies for gay couples and simultaneously stop signing marriages licenses for anyone -- gay or straight -- until the state's ban on marriage equality is lifted. [Link]

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5 Years After Goodridge, GLAD Announces “6x12”

November 18, 2008
“We can make New England a marriage equality zone by strategically combining existing legal, electoral, and on-the-ground know-how to fast-track marriage in every New England state,” said GLAD Executive Director Lee Swislow. “By 2012 we not only can have marriage equality throughout New England, we can have a road map for the rest of the country.” [Link]

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Momentum Toward Marriage Equality Across Country, Still Awaiting Final Results in California

Freedom to Marry
November 5, 2008
While we still await results on California’s Prop 8 with several million ballots still uncounted, disappointment and pain over the anti-gay attacks in Arizona, Arkansas, and Florida, as well as California are balanced by so much good news from around the country, including the dawn of a new era in Washington, D.C. Pro-equality candidates for state office and Congressional seats won elections across the country and soon will take office, joining activists’ renewed efforts to continue the fight for equality in each state and our great nation. [Link]

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Jay Bakker and Religious Straight Americans Speak Up for Gay and Transgender Neighbors

PR Web
August 27, 2008
Jay Bakker is the son of Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner. His non-traditional approach to ministry achieved national attention in the Sundance Channel documentary One Punk Under God, which documented his journey to become a gay-affirming Christian. Like Bakker, Michelle Garland has been on a journey to support gay and transgender friends. "I was determined to do what I knew in my heart was right. I believe we are all G-d's children and to deny love to a fellow human is to reject the spark of G-dliness that is in each of us," says Garland, who is now organizing a Seven Straight Nights event in Ames, Iowa, for the second year in a row. [Link]

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Freedom to Marry Honors the Life of Del Martin

Freedom to Marry
August 27, 2008
“Del Martin lived what Dr. King said he, too, aspired to — a committed life. Committed to changing our country and the lives of millions for the better, committed to her beloved spouse Phyllis, committed in meaning and, happily, thanks to the progress she inspired, committed in marriage. Freedom to Marry honors this luminous pioneer and pillar, and as we work to have and hold marriage in California and nationwide, treasures the lessons she and Phyllis taught us and the example they set.” [Link]

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Iowa’s Married Same-Sex Couple Celebrates First Year of Marriage on the Anniversary of Lambda Lega

Lambda Legal
August 25, 2008
August 31 will mark the one year anniversary of the first marriage of a same-sex couple in Iowa after Lambda Legal's victory in which a district court ruled that barring same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional. [Link]

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Garden State Equality
August 19, 2008
By 59 to 36 percent, New Jerseyans would be fine with public officials’ changing the civil union law to marriage equality. Indeed, when the poll goes out of its way to remind voters that New Jersey already has a civil union law, a majority of New Jersey still supports marriage for same-sex couples – 50.1 to 42.3 percent. And an astounding 69 percent of New Jerseyans say marriage equality is inevitable in the state. [Link]

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