LGBT Community Groups Seek to Intervene in Federal Challenge to Proposition 8

SAN FRANCISCO–(ENEWSPF)–July 9, 2009.  Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today asked the U.S. District Court in San Francisco to allow Our Family Coalition, Lavender Seniors of the East Bay, and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays to intervene in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a federal lawsuit challenging California’s Proposition 8. In an order issued June 30 and confirmed at a hearing on July 1, Judge Vaughn R. Walker granted a motion to intervene by supporters of Proposition 8, and declined to rule on a request by plaintiffs for an immediate injunction staying the marriage ban. He called instead for a trial to resolve a number of critically important factual questions about LGBT people and constitutional rights, including questions about same-sex couples as parents, whether Proposition 8 was passed with discriminatory intent and whether allowing same-sex couples to marry undermines the stability of heterosexual marriages.

“Denial of marriage inflicts harms that vary by age, socio-economic class, the presence of minor children and the many other ways the gay community is diverse, often stigmatized and uniquely vulnerable,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, National Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal. “These groups wish to illustrate for the court the diverse needs of their members and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community generally to provide the full factual record Judge Walker said will help the appellate courts as they decide whether LGBT people in California have the same basic rights as the Golden State’s heterosexual population.”

“The questions posed by the court are exactly the questions our organizations have been addressing for years in state and federal courts all across the country,” said James Esseks, co-director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. “Again and again we’ve seen that the more courts know about LGBT people, the better they understand why everyone must be free to exercise the same constitutional rights regardless of sexual orientation.”

The law firms Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and Boies, Schiller & Flexner filed Perry v. Schwarzenegger in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on May 27, 2009 on behalf of two same-sex couples who were denied a marriage license earlier that month.

“We believe the involvement of these community groups will significantly help the court decide the case,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Judge Walker said he believes the appellate courts will benefit if he creates an evidentiary record about the people affected by Proposition 8, the supposed reasons for the initiative, and its actual effects. His view is consistent with our experience that more information helps when courts are facing novel questions about LGBT people and our families.”

Lambda Legal, NCLR and the ACLU also filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the same case on June 26. Regarding the friend-of-the-court filing, Chad Griffin, Board President of The American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group backing the lawsuit, said in a statement, “We are pleased to have the amicus brief from the ACLU, Lambda Legal and NCLR, which have brought inspiring leadership and legal expertise to the cause of ensuring all Americans are treated equally under the law. This case is about the denial of fundamental constitutional rights, and its significance is underscored by the united front presented to the court.”