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N.Y. top court rules against gay marriage
By MARK JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, July 6, 2006
ALBANY, N.Y. - New York's highest court ruled Thursday that gay marriage is not allowed under state law, rejecting arguments by same-sex couples who said the law violates their constitutional rights.
The Court of Appeals, in a 4-2 decision, said New York's marriage law is constitutional and clearly limits marriage to between a man and a woman.
Any change in the law would have to come from the state Legislature, Judge Robert Smith said.
"We do not predict what people will think generations from now, but we believe the present generation should have a chance to decide the issue through its elected representatives," Smith wrote.
Gov. George Pataki's health department and state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's office had argued New York law prohibits issuing licenses to same-sex couples. The state had prevailed in lower appeals courts.
"It's a sad day for New York families," said plaintiff Kathy Burke of Schenectady, who is raising an 11-year-old son with her partner, Tonja Alvis. "My family deserves the same protections as my next door neighbors."
The judges declined to follow the lead of high court judges in neighboring Massachusetts, who ruled that same-sex couples in that state have the same right to wed as straight couples.
The four cases decided Thursday were filed two years ago when the Massachusetts decision helped usher in a series of gay marriage controversies from Boston to San Francisco.
With little hope of getting a gay marriage bill signed into law in Albany, advocates from the ACLU, Lambda Legal and other advocacy groups marshaled forces for a court fight. Forty-four couples acted as plaintiffs in the suits, including the brother of comedian Rosie O'Donnell and his longtime partner.
Plaintiff Regina Cicchetti said she was "devastated" by the ruling. But the Port Jervis resident said she and her partner of 36 years, Susan Zimmer, would fight on, probably by lobbying the Legislature for a change in the law.
"We haven't given up," she said. "We're in this for the long haul. If we can't get it done for us, we'll get it done for the people behind us."
In a dissent, Chief Judge Judith Kaye said the court failed to uphold its responsibility to correct inequalities when it decided to simply leave the issue to lawmakers.
Kaye noted that a number of bills allowing same-sex marriage have been introduced in the Legislature over the past several years, but none has ever made it out of committee.
"It is uniquely the function of the Judicial Branch to safeguard individual liberties guaranteed by the New York State Constitution, and to order redress for their violation," she wrote. "The court's duty to protect constitutional rights is an imperative of the separation of powers, not its enemy. I am confident that future generations will look back on today's decision as an unfortunate misstep."
Judge Albert Rosenblatt, whose daughter has advocated for same-sex couples in California, did not take part in the decision.
Since the Massachusetts ruling, about a dozen states have approved constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, and 19 now outlaw it. There is now a push in Massachusetts for a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
A federal lawsuit filed over California's refusal to grant a marriage license to a gay couple reached the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May. The court, however, sidestepped the question of whether it was unconstitutional to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry, leaving the issue to state courts to decide.
On the Net:
Court of Appeals: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/ctapps/
New York court rules against gay marriage
Thursday, July 6, 2006
NEW YORK (AFP) - Same-sex couples have no constitutional right to marry in New York, the state's highest court ruled, leaving Massachusetts as the sole US state allowing gay and lesbian marriage.
"We hold that the New York Constitution does not compel recognition of marriages between members of the same sex," the state Court of Appeals in Albany said in a 4-2 decision.
The court considered four appeals filed by more than 40 gay and lesbian couples, who had argued that their inability to get marriage licences in New York violated their constitutional rights.
"Whether such marriages should be recognised is a question to be addressed by the legislature," the court said.
New York Gay Marriage Bar Upheld by State's Top Court (Update1)
July 6 (Bloomberg) -- Gay and lesbian couples have no constitutional right to marry in New York, the state's highest court ruled, leaving Massachusetts as the only U.S. state allowing such unions.
The court reviewed four appeals filed by 44 gay and lesbian couples, ruling 4 to 2 that the parties had no right to be issued marriage licenses by local officials.
``We're very disappointed that the court was unable to vindicate the constitutional rights for the many thousands of gay and lesbian couples throughout New York state,'' said Roberta Kaplan, an attorney who represented same-sex couples denied marriage licenses. ``We will take this battle to the legislature.''
Appeals of decisions upholding same-sex marriage bans are pending in New Jersey, California and Washington state. In 1999, Vermont determined the benefits of marriage must be provided to same-sex couples and referred the issue to the legislature, which enacted a civil union statute for same-sex couples.
``We hold that the New York Constitution does not compel recognition of marriages between members of the same sex,'' the state Court of Appeals in Albany ruled 4-2 today in a opinion by Justice Robert S. Smith.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Karen Freifeld in New York at email@example.com
Last Updated: July 6, 2006 09:17 EDT
New York court declines to recognize gay marriage
Thu Jul 6, 2006 9:22am ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York State Court of Appeals refused to recognize same-sex marriage in an order issued on Thursday, deciding that the issue should be addressed by the Legislature.
The New York case involves 48 gay and lesbian couples who filed four separate cases from across the state. The cases were heard together by the court in Albany.
Under 97-year-old state law, marriage is defined as between a man and woman. The same-sex couples had claimed the law violates their constitutional rights because it defends sex discrimination.
NY High Court Nixes Gay Marriage
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
July 6, 2006 - 9:00 am, Updated 9:25 am ET
(New York City) The Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York State, ruled Thursday that the state "Constitution does not compel the recognition of marriages between members of the same sex."
In a 4 - 2 decision, the court said that "Whether such marriages should be recognized is a question to be addressed by the Legislature."
The court heard arguments in May in an omnibus case involving four different lawsuits brought by 44 gay and lesbian couples.
Only six justices were on the bench to hear the combined cases. Justice Albert M. Rosenblatt, considered by many a swing vote, recused himself.
In lower courts judges in three of the cases upheld the current ban on same-sex marriage. In the fourth, New York City judge Doris Ling-Cohan ruled that the New York State Constitution guarantees basic freedoms to lesbian and gay people, and that those rights are violated when same-sex couples are not allowed to marry. That ruling was overturned in a midlevel appeals court.
Writing for the majority Justice Robert Smith said that the Domestic Relations Law, which governs marriage, does not specifically say that only people of different sexes may marry each other, but "that was the universal understanding when Articles 2 and 3 were adopted in 1909, an understanding reflected in several statutes."
The court also said that there are "at least two grounds that rationally support the limitation on marriage that the Legislature has enacted." Two of those, the ruling said, involve children.
"First, the Legislature could rationally decide that, for the welfare of children, it is more important to promote stability, and to avoid instability, in opposite-sex than in same-sex relationships.
"Heterosexual intercourse has a natural tendency to lead to the birth of children; homosexual intercourse does not."
The ruling also noted that the Legislature could "rationally believe that it is better, other things being equal, for children to grow up with both a mother and a father."
The justices said in the ruling that the same-sex couples fighting for marriage equality "have not persuaded us that this long accepted restriction is a wholly irrational one, based solely on ignorance and prejudice against homosexuals ... If we were convinced that the restriction plaintiffs attack were founded on nothing but prejudice - if we agreed with the plaintiffs that it is comparable to the restriction in Loving v Virginia a prohibition on interracial marriage that was plainly 'designed to maintain White Supremacy' -- we would hold it invalid, no matter how long its history.
A poll released in April showed that a majority of people across New York State support same-sex marriage.
Decisions in challenges to state laws barring same-sex marriage are pending in two other states.
Arguments in New Jersey were heard in February. (story)
In the state of Washington the wait for a ruling on gay marriage has turned into a marathon.
Arguments challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, were made before the Washington state Supreme Court in March 2005. (story)
Meanwhile, in California, a mid level appeals court will hear an omnibus same-sex marriage case next week. That case is expected to reach the California Supreme Court next year.
The only state where same-sex marriage currently legal is Massachusetts. Gay and lesbian couples there began marrying in May 2004 after that state's high court ruled the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.