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Case Name Smelt v. County of Orange PB-CA-0034
Docket / Court 8:04-cv-01042 ( C.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Same-Sex Marriage
Attorney Organization Lambda Legal
Case Summary
On September 1, 2004, two men who wished to marry each other in the state of California filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the County of Orange. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court to ... read more >
On September 1, 2004, two men who wished to marry each other in the state of California filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the County of Orange. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court to declare that the California Family Code and the Defense of Marriage Act were unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs brought suit after they were denied a marriage license by the County Clerk of Orange County on two separate occasions because they were both men. The plaintiffs claimed that by not issuing them an application for a marriage license pursuant to California Code the County had violated their rights under the Due Process, Equal Protection, and Full Faith and Credit Clauses of the United States Constitution. The plaintiffs also challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

On June 16, 2005, the Court (Judge Gary L. Taylor) issued a ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment. 374 F.Supp.2d 861. First, the Court held that it was proper for the District Court to abstain from judgment on the constitutionality of state law here, as a set of consolidated cases was pending before California state court on this issue (In re Marriage Cases). Second, the Court held that Section 3 of DOMA (defining marriage as opposite-sex for Federal purposes) was constitutional and also denied plaintiffs standing to challenge Section 2 of DOMA (preventing states from recognizing same-sex marriages authorized in other states).

On May 5, 20016, following an appeal by plaintiffs, the Ninth Circuit, in an opinion written by Judge Ferdinand Fernandez, denied the district court's finding that it was proper to abstain from deciding the constitutionality of state law. 447 F.3d 673. The Ninth Circuit also upheld Judge Taylor's determination that plaintiffs lacked standing regarding Section 2 of DOMA, the state-recognition provision. However, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court regarding Section 3 of DOMA, the definitional provision; the appeals court instead held that plaintiffs did not have a particularized injury, and therefore lacked constitutional standing to challenge this provision as well.

On August 29, 2008, the District Court (Judge David O. Carter) issued an order dismissing the case pursuant to the Ninth Circuit Order. The plaintiffs later brought a related suit against the United States in PB-CA-0035 : Smelt v. United States in 2008.

Megan Dolan - 10/09/2014
Eric Cole - 07/30/2015

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Full faith and credit
Sex discrimination
Sexual orientatation
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
State law
Defendant(s) County of Orange
Plaintiff Description Two men who wanted to marry each other in the state of California.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Lambda Legal
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 09/01/2004
Case Closing Year 2008
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing PB-CA-0035 : Smelt v. United States (C.D. Cal.)
8:04−cv−01042 (C.D. Cal.)
PB-CA-0034-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/04/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
District Court Order on Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment; Judgment (347 F.Supp.2d 861) (C.D. Cal.)
PB-CA-0034-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/16/2005
Source: Westlaw
Administrative Orders Concerning Filed Order and Judgment [ECF# 127] (C.D. Cal.)
PB-CA-0034-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/16/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit (447 F.3d 673)
PB-CA-0034-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/05/2006
Source: Westlaw
Opinion [Denying Petition for Writ of Certiorari] (127 S.Ct. 396)
PB-CA-0034-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 10/10/2006
Source: Westlaw
Order Dismissing Case Pursuant to Ninth Circuit Order [ECF# 152] (C.D. Cal.)
PB-CA-0034-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/29/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Carter, David O. (C.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0034-0005 | PB-CA-0034-9000
Fernandez, Ferdinand Francis (C.D. Cal., Ninth Circuit) show/hide docs
Goldman, Marc L (C.D. Cal.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
Taylor, Gary L. (C.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0034-0001 | PB-CA-0034-0004
Plaintiff's Lawyers Babion, Byron J. (Arizona) show/hide docs
Bull, Benjamin W. (Arizona) show/hide docs
Gilbert, Richard C. (California) show/hide docs
Heckmann, Ross S. (California) show/hide docs
Kim, Sam (California) show/hide docs
Lavy, Glen (Arizona) show/hide docs
Lindevaldsen, Rena M (Florida) show/hide docs
Marlowe, Diane J. (California) show/hide docs
McAlister, Mary Elizabeth (Virginia) show/hide docs
Milam, Karen Dean (California) show/hide docs
Parker, Michael L. (California) show/hide docs
Schowengerdt, Dale (Arizona) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Beckington, Mark R. (California) show/hide docs
Bedell, Jeffrey I. (California) show/hide docs
Krueger, Christopher E. (California) show/hide docs
Maksoudian, Teri L. (California) show/hide docs
Mosley, Jerald I. (California) show/hide docs
Patel, Hiren M. (California) show/hide docs
Simpson, W. Scott (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Van Riper, Marianne (California) show/hide docs
Other Lawyers Bomse, Stephen V. (California) show/hide docs
Chhabria, Vince Girdhari (California) show/hide docs
Davidson, Jon Warren (California) show/hide docs
DeNatale, Richard J. (California) show/hide docs
Fienen, Chandra Miller (California) show/hide docs
Joslin, Courtney (California) show/hide docs
Kaiser, Sherri Sokeland (California) show/hide docs
Margolin, Amy E. (California) show/hide docs
Minter, Shannon (California) show/hide docs
Pizer, Jennifer Carol (California) show/hide docs
Wilson, Bobbie J. (California) show/hide docs

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