In a ruling hailed by homosexual-rights advocates as “historic,” a New York state court ruled today same-sex couples must be allowed to marry.
State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan in Manhattan said five couples represented by Lambda Legal Defense were not being treated equally under the law when they were denied access to marriage by the city of New York.
“This is a historic ruling that delivers the state constitution’s promise of equality to all New Yorkers,” said Susan Sommer, supervising attorney for Lambda Legal.
“The court recognized that unless gay people can marry, they are not being treated equally under the law,” she said. “Same-sex couples need the protections and security marriage provides, and this ruling says they’re entitled to get them the same way straight couples do.”
The case, filed last March against the city, likely will be decided by the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court. The decision has been stayed for 30 days to allow the city to determine whether it will appeal.
One of the couples, Daniel Hernandez, 46, and Nevin Cohen, 42, said they have been together for more than six years and want to have the same rights enjoyed by their parents.
“We’re lucky to both have parents who’ve been happily married for more than 50 years,” said Hernandez, according to Gay365.com. “Is it too much to want that for ourselves?”
But Mathew D. Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, who filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief in the case, noted that in the past four months, three judges in the state have refused to declare the New York marriage laws unconstitutional.
Yesterday a court in Albany ruled in the case of two same-sex couples seeking licenses that marriage is not a fundamental right.
Justice E. Michael Kavanagh said that while state law does not specifically bar same-sex couples, “the statute is replete with other references … that this was, in fact, the intent that marriage be reserved for couples of the opposite sex.”
Staver said the recent decisions prior to today’s ruling “squarely rejected claims by same-sex couples that marriage laws limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman violate the couples’ due process or equal protection rights.”
In contrast, he pointed out, Judge Cohan said today there is a “fundamental right to choose one spouse” and contended same-sex marriage “would cause harm to no one.”
She insisted there is “no legitimate purpose, let alone a compelling interest” in the marriage laws, and ordered that “husband,” “wife,” “groom” and “bride” should now be construed as “spouse.”
Staver contends the state “has an obvious interest in preserving traditional marriage and in promoting the best family arrangement – one with a mom and a dad – for our children and society.”
“Today’s decision demonstrates the need for marriage amendments at the state and federal level,” he said. “All it takes is one judge to throw the state’s marriage laws into upheaval.
Staver said judges “should not be able to pull same-sex marriage out of a hat and force it on the American people.”
“Marriage is a fundamental basis of our society and we must do all that it takes to stabilize and preserve it,” he said. “The people must have a voice in this most important social issue.”
As WorldNetDaily reported, Ulster County Court Judge J. Michael Bruhn restored criminal charges Wednesday against New Paltz Mayor Jason West for solemnizing same-sex “marriages” last February.
West insists that if he rejected a homosexual couple wishing to marry, he would be violating the state constitution and thus his oath of office.
But New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Gov. George Pataki have said same-sex ceremonies violate state law.
Lambda Legal is litigating cases seeking marriage for same-sex couples in New Jersey, California and Washington, where the state’s high court will hear oral arguments March 8.