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Same-sex marriage rulings will 'echo' across U.S.

Opponents of same-sex marriage say the decision by New York state to reject same-sex couples’ bid to win marriage rights will “echo” in American courtrooms.

Just hours after the New York Court of Appeals ruled 4-2 that the state’s law allowing marriage only between a man and a woman was constitutional, Georgia’s highest court reinstated a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

In New York, the court agreed a decision on the issue should be left to the state’s legislature.

“Marriage has become an emotionally charged issue because some courts have catered to political special interests,” said Chris Stovall, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case. “But the judges in New York’s highest court showed judicial restraint, and today’s win will echo loudly through America’s courtrooms.”

Mathew Staver, president of the public-interest group Liberty Counsel said there’s “no question” advocates of same-sex marriage looked to New York as a place where they could win.”

“It would have been a major victory for them. Instead it’s a stunning defeat for the same-sex marriage movement,” Staver said.

Matt Foreman, executive director of the Washington-based National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington, admitted the decision was costly to his cause but said the battle is not over.

“This is something that is going to work itself out over the next 10 or 15 years, ultimately through the U.S. Supreme Court or an act of Congress,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

ADF’s Stovall pointed out the New York Times called the state’s appeals court Wednesday one of the “more progressive” courts in the country.

That, he said, “shows just how radical the infamous Massachusett’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage was.”

Ohio State University law professor Marc Spindelman, who follows homosexual-rights legal issues, said it’s hard “to read the decision as anything other than a rebuff of gay and lesbian couples.”

“Clearly, in bringing the case and pushing it as hard as they did, it’s pretty good evidence that they thought they had a substantial chance of victory,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney for the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy, noted that the court made an important but obvious legal point.

“The right to marry someone of the same sex … is not ‘deeply rooted’; it has not even been asserted until relatively recent times,” he said. “Finally, we have a court that is functioning like a court.”

ADF’s brief in the cases of Hernandez v. Robles, Samuels v. Dept. of Health, Kane v. Marsolais and Seymour v. Holcomb can be read here.

The court’s decision can be read here.

“Marriage is not merely a ‘commitment’ between consenting adults, nor is it a financial system designed to provide benefits to ‘loving’ couples,” Stovall said. “As a historical institution that has stood for thousands of years, marriage offers inestimable benefits to society. It unites men and women in stable lifelong relationships so that children will be raised by their mothers and their fathers as often as possible.

“For this reason alone, the state has a legitimate, indeed a compelling, interest in supporting marriage between one man and one woman.”

Plaintiff Kathy Burke of Schenectady, N.Y, who is raising an 11-year-old with her partner of seven years, called it a “sad day for New York families.”

“My family deserves the same protections as my next door neighbors,” she insisted.

In Georgia, the court reinstated a ban approved by three-quarters of voters in 2004. The decision overturned a ruling by a lower court judge, who agreed with plaintiffs arguing the ballot language was misleading by asking voters to decide on two separate issues, marriage and civil unions.

Same-sex couples also are arguing cases in Washington state, California and New Jersey. Forty-five states have banned same-sex marriage through statutes or constitutional amendments.

Only in Massachusetts, after a decision by the state Supreme Court in 2003, is same-sex marriage allowed. Vermont previously enacted same-sex civil unions, which essentially offer the same rights as marriage.

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