With support pledged from the mayor, 25 same-sex couples calling themselves the "Ithaca 50" have filed lawsuits against the city of Ithaca and the state of New York for refusing to issue them marriage licenses. Following similar cases filed by couples in Nyack and New York City, the couples claim that their state constitutional rights to due process and equal protection have been violated, based on the state's current statutory framework "drawing impermissible distinctions based on gender and sexual orientation." "We are able to legally adopt each other's children, but we are not legally able to protect one another as a family," said plaintiff Lisa Bushlow. She and her partner, Nina Panzer, have been together six years and have a 2-year-old son, she said.
The lawsuit was filed in state court. State attorney general Eliot Spitzer has issued an opinion that New York law doesn't authorize same-sex marriages but that the issue could be open to a constitutional challenge. With the state health department advising that state law does not recognize same-sex marriages, municipal clerks around the state have declined to issue licenses, including in Ithaca. Ithaca mayor Carolyn Peterson said Wednesday that the city will file "a cross-claim in support of the stand that the gay couples have taken." Opponents of legalizing gay marriage in New York include Gov. George Pataki.