The California Court of Appeal heard oral arguments this week in six cases that will decide whether excluding same-sex couples from marriage violates the California Constitution.

Last spring, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer held that California’s exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage discriminates on the basis of sex and violates the fundamental right to marry under the California Constitution.

“The time has come to end one of the last remaining laws that mandate discrimination against an entire group of Californians,” said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California.

Mr Kors’ organisation is a party in four of the six consolidated cases.

“Same-sex couples and their families deserve all the protections and responsibilities that only a marriage license can provide. This case is about the dignity and respect that has been denied to thousands of California couples simply because of who they love.”

The National Centre for Lesbian Rights’ Shannon Minter will serve as lead counsel in Woo v California, one of the cases slotted for next week. NCLR’s co-counsel are Heller Ehrman LLP, Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the Law Firm of David Codell.

“Same-sex couples have demonstrated their love and commitment in the face of ongoing legal discrimination,” said Ms Minter, in a press statement. “Our clients Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon have been together fifty-three years. After living to see many anti-gay laws fall by the wayside, they now hope they will live to see the final chapter of this story, when they finally will be treated as full and equal citizens with the same ability to marry as everyone else.”

Ms Minter will be arguing three other cases, representing Equality California, Our Family Coalition, and sixteen same-sex couples.

“The trial court in this case rightly recognised that there is no legitimate reason to deny lesbians and gay men the freedom to marry that their neighbours cherish,” said Jennifer Pizer, Senior Counsel for Lambda Legal’s Western Regional Office.

“We hope that California’s appellate courts soon affirm what the state’s legislature recognised in passing a marriage equality bill: no one will be harmed, and many families will be helped, by allowing same-sex couples to marry and thereby take full responsibility for each other and better protect their children.”

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