California Ends Gay Couples’ Exclusion From Marriage

California Supreme Court Leads the Way Yet Again in Historic Ruling Upholding the Freedom to Marry


New York, May 15, 2008 —Earlier today, the California Supreme Court handed down a historic decision upholding the freedom to marry in In Re: Marriage Cases. The second state high court to rule in favor of ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage said, “in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right [marriage] to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.”

“This righteous decision of this most respected state high court will give Americans the chance to experience what they've begun to see for the last few years in Massachusetts, South Africa, Canada, Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands – the lived reality that ending exclusion from marriage helps families and harms no one,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry. “California's sun will illuminate the nation.”

The milestone California ruling comes as the country marks the 60th anniversary of another historic ruling, Perez v. Sharp. In Perez, the California Supreme Court became the first court in the country to strike down race restrictions on marriage, also by a vote of 4-3, at a time when polls showed 90% opposing interracial marriage. Wolfson noted, “Today, the justices of the California Supreme Court again lived up to their oath to uphold the Constitution for all, and as with their courageous past stands against discrimination in marriage, we will all be the better and history will vindicate them.”

Noting that opponents of equality have submitted signatures that may trigger a November vote on an anti-gay measure aimed at amending the state constitution to bar committed same-sex couples from the equal freedom to marry, Wolfson said, “Thanks to the Court's just decision, voters will get to make an informed decision, having the chance to see actual married couples and realize it is wrong to put obstacles in their path.”

Freedom to Marry salutes the leadership of National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, Heller Ehrman LLP and the Law Office of David C. Codell, and the City of San Francisco, who represented fifteen same-sex couples, Equality California, and Our Family Coalition in this case.