Attorney General Lockyer Files Opening Brief on Behalf of California in Same-Sex Marriage Lawsuit

Friday, October 8, 2004
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

(SAN FRANCISCO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today filed the State of California's opening brief in the same-sex marriage case in San Francisco Superior Court.

Pursuant to the Attorney General's duty to defend state law, the brief outlines a strong defense of California's longstanding tradition of maintaining the formal recognition of marriage to relationships between a man and a woman, while acknowledging the valid and committed relationships of same-sex couples that deserve and receive recognition under existing California law.

"Committed and loving relationships between two individuals deserve recognition under California law," Lockyer said. "The obligations and benefits that attend such relationships form the cornerstone of nurturing families and a stable society. For more than a century, however, the people of California have affirmed through initiative and by the actions of their elected state legislators that those obligations and benefits are available through marriage to opposite-sex couples, and, now, through domestic partnerships to same-sex couples. Any change to this long-standing policy is best reserved to the judgment of the voters and the state legislature."

The brief argues that state law should be upheld regardless of what standard of judicial scrutiny is applied. In its brief, the state contends the trial court should apply a "rational basis" review, which is consistent with the majority holdings of every appellate court in the nation to consider this issue. Under this standard, state laws are presumed to be constitutional and will be upheld against challenge if they are "rationally related" to a legitimate state interest. The Attorney General argues that it is not irrational to extend to same-sex couples substantially all the rights and benefits afforded to married couples while maintaining the common and traditional understanding of marriage.

The Attorney General's brief also rejects, as contrary to California policy, certain arguments that have been used in other states to justify laws prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages. In some states, opponents of same-sex marriage have alleged that same-sex relationships are less committed or stable than opposite-sex relationships, and that same-sex couples would place children at risk. The Attorney General dismisses these arguments as false and inconsistent with California law, which extends to registered domestic partners the "same rights, protections, and benefits" afforded opposite-sex spouses.

The Attorney General also argues that because of the significant policy implications associated with defining marriage under California law, the legislative and electoral processes are the appropriate avenues for making changes in the future.

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PDF icon 04-115.pdf3.18 MB
PDF icon 04-115.pdf3.18 MB