The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office was at the forefront of the legal battle for marriage equality for same-sex couples throughout California and the United States
SAN FRANCISCO (February 12, 2024) — City Attorney David Chiu issued a statement today commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the first same-sex marriages in San Francisco. On February 12, 2004, San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That action kicked off a nearly decade-long legal battle, in multiple cases in both state and federal court, that ultimately resulted in courts declaring California Proposition 8 unconstitutional, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark rulings in 2013 establishing a constitutional right to marriage equality nationwide.
“Every step of the way, the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office fought for marriage equality and the fundamental right to be treated equally under the law no matter who you love,” said City Attorney David Chiu. “I’m honored to lead an office with such a consequential place in American history. The credit for reaching that legal landmark goes to former City Attorney Dennis Herrera, along with former Chief Deputy City Attorney Terry Stewart, many other Deputy City Attorneys past and present, the incredible legal professionals who together formed our marriage equality teams, and countless activists, known and unknown, who fought for their rights for decades.”
The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office was at the forefront of the legal battle for marriage equality in California for nearly a decade. The Office filed the first government-initiated challenge to marriage laws that discriminate against same-sex couples in American history, and the Office holds the unique distinction of being the only legal team involved as a party in every aspect of the legal fight in California — in every case, in every court, before every judge — from early 2004 to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark rulings in June 2013.
From defending Mayor Gavin Newsom’s decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses in February 2004, the City Attorney’s Office went on to successfully sue to strike down the anti-gay marriage exclusion in state courts, and continued to represent the public sector interest in striking down California’s Proposition 8 in federal court in Hollingsworth v. Perry.
U.S. Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Hollingsworth v. Perry held that proponents of California’s Proposition 8 lacked standing to appeal a lower court ruling invalidating the measure as unconstitutional, restoring marriage equality for same-sex couples throughout California.
The entire timeline of the legal battle for marriage equality and the City Attorney’s Office’s leadership can be found here.