S.F. Presents Case in Defense of Gay Marriage

Lawyers for the city of San Francisco told the California Supreme Court (search) in documents Friday that nothing in the state constitution requires local officials to obey laws they believe infringe on the civil rights of their citizens.

Responding to efforts by the state attorney general and a Christian public interest law firm to invalidate the 3,632 same-sex marriages that have been sanctioned in San Francisco during the last three weeks, City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed briefs arguing that municipal authorities are "independently responsible" to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

"Their rush to force immediate obeisance to discriminatory marriage laws asks this court to ignore our decentralized, federalist constitutional democracy," Herrera wrote in defense of the city's defiance. "Barring local governments from taking independent actions to conform their conduct to the state and federal constitutions would undermine this system of government."

The state Supreme Court has ordered the city to respond to a pair of petitions asking for a prompt judicial declaration on the legality of the same-sex marriages, but the justices have not indicated when they might rule in the case.

Justices could act on the petitions already filed, schedule a future hearing on the issues, or send the matter to a lower court for trial.

The parties seeking to shut down San Francisco's gay wedding spree, Attorney General Bill Lockyer (search) and the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund (search), argue that an existing section of the California Constitution prohibits "administrative agencies" of the state from declaring laws unconstitutional on their own.

The Alliance Defense Fund also filed a supplemental legal brief Friday that included declarations from experts that same-sex unions would cause severe social problems and higher suicide rates among children of gay couples.

"Children who don't come from traditional families suffer from higher rates of social harms," ADF lawyer Robert Tyler said at a news conference.