- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

The city of San Francisco has issued more than 2,000 “marriage” licenses to homosexual couples over the past four days, an act of civil disobedience that attorneys for two traditional-values groups will seek to end in court today.

San Francisco officials have vowed to keep issuing licenses until told to stop by the city’s top law-enforcement officer. The licenses are invalid under a voter-passed state initiative defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

One of the law firms appearing in court today will accuse San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and other city officials of “constitutional carnage and anarchy” for blatantly violating state law when he directed the county clerk to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

“The mayor is actually usurping the roles of judges, legislators and voters. … This is not the rule of law, but personal whim,” said the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Proposition 22 is the initiative that limited marriage to heterosexual couples.

Both parties submitted briefs last night for today’s hearing.

Tamara Lange, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which will be defending San Francisco officials such as Mr. Newsom and county clerk Nancy Alfaro, said it is illegal to treat people differently because of their sex.

“The [state] constitution promises equality for everyone — for women as compared to men and equality for gay people as compared to straight people,” Miss Lange said. “Mayor Newsom is requiring the city to stop discriminating because the California constitution prohibits this kind of discrimination.”

The state constitution always trumps a voter initiative, San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera told TV station KTVU yesterday.

The city’s attorneys also claim the plaintiffs have not shown that issuing licenses causes the irreparable harm necessary for a court stay.

“Same-sex couples denied the right to marry face far greater harm than the petitioners here,” the city said in its legal brief filed yesterday.

Two legal actions are expected today in San Francisco Superior Court.

This morning, Liberty Counsel, representing Campaign for California Families, will appear before Superior Court Judge Ronald Quidachay to ask for a temporary injunction on issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

“Mayor Newsom and Clerk Alfaro are no more able to issue same-sex ‘marriage’ licenses than they are able to issue [federal] pilot’s licenses,” said Mathew Staver, president of Orlando, Fla.-based Liberty Counsel.

“The people of California have spoken: Marriage is between one man and one woman only,” he said. “We are confident that the court will restore order in San Francisco and will invalidate the so-called marriage licenses unlawfully issued.”

This afternoon, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defense Fund goes before Superior Court Judge James L. Warren to ask for the same injunction.

The ACLU, National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal are involved in opposing both injunctions today, Miss Lange said.

San Francisco shocked the country Thursday when, at Mr. Newsom’s behest and with cooperation from city staff, it began officiating over homosexual “marriages” and issuing licenses to same-sex couples — the first time a government body in the United States had done either.

As of noon yesterday, 1,740 same-sex couples had been “married” and hundreds more were waiting.

City assessor Mabel Teng opened her office, which is normally closed on Presidents Day, a half-hour early to “marry” as many couples as possible. She expected 650 couples to have “wed” before City Hall closed last night.

Miss Teng said many of the city workers were volunteering their time and she was happy to participate.

“I am just very honored to be involved in this significant and history-making event. … I’m so proud to be part of it,” she said.

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, lawmakers will hold a hearing today on a bill that would allow the state to disregard homosexual unions performed elsewhere.

New Hampshire already has a law outlawing same-sex “marriage,” but it doesn’t explicitly invalidate same-sex “marriages” that are legal in other states, said state Sen. Russell Prescott, a lead sponsor of the bill. “We felt we needed to do that more clearly,” he said.

“We felt we were squeezed in the middle,” said state Rep. Robert Letourneau, another Republican sponsor, referring to Massachusetts’ pending legalization of homosexual “marriage” and Vermont’s adoption of marriagelike civil unions several years ago.

The bill, which comes up for a committee hearing today, would clarify that homosexual unions performed outside New Hampshire have no standing within the state. It would also make Vermont-style civil unions illegal in New Hampshire.

The bill deals only with the definition of marriage, not with rights and benefits for same-sex couples.

Gov. Craig Benson, a Republican, supports the bill and said last week he backs banning civil unions as well as homosexual “marriage.”

“It seems to me it’s the same thing called by a different name,” he said.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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