ACLU and LGBT Organizations Seek to Intervene in Federal Challenge to Prop 8

Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU affiliates in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, 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.

“We are pleased to offer additional information, experiences and expertise to help the court in this extremely important decision-making process,” said Kevin Keenan, Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

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’s 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 firm Gibson Dunn 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 Olson-Boies legal team, said in a statement, “We are pleased to have the amicus brief from the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and NCLR, which has 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.”

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Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. www.lambdalegal.org.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. www.nclrights.org.

The American Civil Liberties Union is America’s foremost advocate of individual rights. It fights discrimination and moves public opinion on LGBT rights through the courts, legislatures and public education. www.aclu.org/lgbt. The ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, founded in 1933 by Helen Marston, fights for individual rights and fundamental freedoms for all people through education, litigation, and advocacy. It has been fighting for LBGT rights in the San Diego area since the 1950s. www.aclusandiego.org.

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