SF City Attorney on Securing Marriage Equality: ‘It’s About Being on the Right Side of History’

June 18, 2013

by Jeremy Leaming

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to issue opinions in two cases involving questions of marriage equality, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera talked with me about his office’s role in challenging discriminatory laws in California that resulted in the federal constitutional challenge to the state’s Proposition 8.

In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the high court is considering constitutional challenges to Proposition 8, which bars California from recognizing same-sex marriages. The justices could avoid the constitutional questions if it were to dismiss the case on procedural grounds.

Herrera (pictured) during the 2013 ACS National Convention discussed why the San Francisco Attorney’s Office so aggressively challenged the state’s laws discriminating against lesbians and gay men and why he does not favor an incremental approach to securing marriage equality.

In the interview Herrera explains how his office helped spark the legal battle that eventually put Proposition 8 before the high court.

“It has been an honor and privilege for our office to have been involved in what is the civil rights issue of our time,” Herrera said. “And we like to think that our involvement at least played some role in really moving the debate and contributing to the tremendous progress that we have seen, with incredible rapidity over the course of the last several years on the issue of marriage equality.”

When asked whether the Supreme Court should avoid an opinion that would make all state bans on same-sex marriage constitutionally suspect, Herrera strongly supported an approach that would more quickly lead to marriage equality from coast to coast.

“I do not think we should be in the position of abiding discrimination,” he said. “And I think we’ve been quite clear that we think everybody is entitled to equal protection under the law irrespective of sexual orientation.”  

Herrera continued, “It’s about being on the right side of history, it’s about making sure that everybody is entitled to equal protection under the law. And I think that while there’s a political process going on it was a direct result of strong legal arguments and views that were made known. So I’m not one who, at least at this point, thinks that an incremental approach is something we need to follow. I think it’s time we deal with this issue once and for all.”

Watch entire interview below or visit this link.