by PAUL ALIAS | Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in favor of a gay couple incarcerated at Valley State Prison near Chowchilla, ordering the corrections department to “recognize and accommodate the legal marriage by individuals who happen to be incarcerated by the State.”
The brief, unanimous ruling tossed out a legal challenge by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) without addressing their legal arguments regarding the “institutional safety and security concerns presented when domestic relationships are accommodated in a custodial setting.” The state high court ruling came about two months after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized gay marriage in California.
Sean Mathews and D'Andre Sanders' were among thousands of married homosexual couples in California affected directly by the United States Supreme Court's recent decision leaving in place a lower-court ruling that struck down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional.
The two were married while on bail, pending trial in unrelated cases–The couple met at the Alameda County Jail. Both were convicted and eventually transferred to Valley State Prison–They are not currently cellmates.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California filed the writ on Mathews and Sanders behalf. In addition to formal recognition of their union, the writ asserted the right of Sanders to “take the name Mathews as his own,” equal use of conjugal visit trailers and use of a “modesty curtain” to cover their cell window.
Austin R. Nimocks, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that wants to end gay marriage, said the ruling means “homosexuals will now be able to play house on the taxpayer's dollar.”
“Highly paid prison guards will soon be responding to domestic violence incidents,” Nimocks claimed. ”The additional costs are untold but predictable nonetheless.”
The State Attorney General filed an emergency petition with the state Supreme Court on behalf of CDCR, arguing that the federal lawsuit at issue applied only to the two couples who filed it and to Alameda and Los Angeles counties, where they live. They claimed the marriage ban remained law in state prisons since the federal lawsuit at issue wasn't a class action lawsuit on behalf of all California gay couples.
In a written statement issued late Wednesday, CDCR spokesperson Terry Thornton states, “The [corrections] Agency is in the process of drafting the necessary regulations, including Government Code changes required at the legislative level, to fully accommodate the California Supreme Court's decision.”
Prop 8 backers filed a nearly identical legal challenge with the state Supreme Court last month urging an immediate ban on gay prison weddings…(Full text at Sacramento Bee)