Fiona Ma for State Assembly
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Court ruling gets praise

Same-sex couples wanting to legally wed were given a boost yesterday by a federal appeals panel in San Francisco that ruled the state’s controversial Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.

The ruling was applauded by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as well as state and federal lawmakers who support marriage equality rights.

Same-sex marriages in the state will not likely resume, however, until the appeals process is completed.

Locally, proponents of same-sex marriage expressed excitement about the court ruling although some are disappointed gay and lesbian couples are still prevented from getting legally married.

The Rev. Terri Echelbarger, with the Peninsula Metropolitan Community Church in San Mateo, oversees a large congregation with many of its members belonging to the LGBT community.

“I’m very pleased, very excited about the ruling,” Echelbarger told the Daily Journal yesterday. She is disappointed, however, that the ruling did not immediately bring relief for couples wanting the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

“The ruling was an affirmation but justice is still being delayed,” she said. “There are many in the LGBT community waiting to marry.”

It is just a matter of time, Echelbarger said, until everyone has the same right to marry the person they love.

Proposition 8 was passed by state voters in 2008 but has been challenged in the courts since. The voter-approved initiative passed with 52 percent support and defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in his decision yesterday that Proposition 8 “serves no purpose ... other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.”

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to overturn the proposition that could lead to the Supreme Court weighing in on the issue.

Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, married his husband, Dr. Dennis McShane, in 2008 and they have been a couple nearly 30 years. He is also the state’s LGBT Caucus chair.

“Today marks a historic day for gay rights history in the state of California. As one of the 18,000 same-sex couples who were married in that short window of opportunity, I find today’s ruling a milestone in the fight for equality and civil rights.  While we are well aware that this fight is not over and that an appeal to this ruling is inevitable, I feel strongly that marriage equality will ultimately be achieved for all,” Gordon wrote in a statement following the ruling.

Derrick Kikuchi and Craig Wiesner, a gay married couple living in San Mateo, recently published a children’s picture book titled “Operation Marriage” that tells the true story of a family with two kids who convince their mothers to get married during that brief window when it was legal.

“We are pleased with the ruling,” Wiesner told the Daily Journal. “The decision shows there is no compelling state interest to discriminate against same-sex couples.”

Their book is meant to show children that there are all kinds of families and that they are all equally valuable.

“All families, whether it’s two moms, two dads or one mom, should be valued,” he said.

State and federal lawmakers agreed.

“I look forward to the day when same-sex couples may once again marry in California and enjoy the rights and freedoms of all married couples. The legal battle is not yet over, but this landmark decision is an important step toward marriage equality for same-sex couples in California,” U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein wrote in a statement.

Feinstein is working at the federal level to protect and restore the rights of same-sex couples, including the 18,000 legally married, same-sex couples who were married in California before Proposition 8 passed.

She is currently pushing legislation that will strike the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, from federal law. DOMA defines marriage under federal law as between one man and one woman.

Yesterday’s court ruling, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto said, was a victory for civil rights.

“This ruling — and our Constitution — have affirmed the equality of all Americans, and reminds us of how sacred these rights are,” Eshoo wrote in a statement.

Gov. Jerry Brown applauded the “wisdom and courage” of the court decision.

“The court has rendered a powerful affirmation of the right of same-sex couples to marry,” Brown wrote in a statement.

If the decision is appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said yesterday’s 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling should be followed.

“Today’s ruling that California’s divisive Proposition 8 is unconstitutional needs to be replicated by the U.S. Supreme Court so that people who love each other may marry. This is one very important step closer to true equality in this country,” Speier wrote in a statement.

Equal rights for same-sex couples is long overdue, state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said yesterday.

“Today’s 9th Circuit decision is another step forward in healing the wounds of government-sanctioned discrimination,” Yee wrote in a statement yesterday.

A group called ProtectMarriage.com sponsored the initiative that placed Proposition 8 on the ballot in November, 2008. When approved, it amended the state Constitution to eliminate the rights of same-sex couples to marry. The group argued that exclusively heterosexual marriage was “an essential institution of society.”

Proposition 8 was supported by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, who is currently seeking the Republican nomination for president.

“It’s no surprise that the 9th Circuit’s decision is completely out of step with every other federal appellate and Supreme Court decision in American history on the subject of marriage,” Andrew Pugno, general counsel for the ProtectMarriage.com coalition, wrote in a statement.

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, recently got married herself, and offered the following statement yesterday.

“Having just taken my vows in November, to share the rest of my life with my partner and husband, I fully understand the need for members of the LGBT community to have their marriages publicly recognized and legally protected by the state. I stand with my friends and neighbors who are still waiting in line to knock down the door of inequality so they can finally celebrate their love and commitment,” Ma wrote in a statement yesterday.

State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, told the Daily Journal last night that the court’s opinion was well reasoned.

“The court stuck with the issue,” he said.