Ten same-sex couples, including the mayor of Nyack, N.Y., and his partner, have lost the lawsuit they filed when New York State denied them marriage licenses. Acting state supreme court justice Alfred Weiner ruled Thursday in New York City that the state's domestic-relations law limits marriage licenses to heterosexual couples, the plaintiffs' lawyer, Norman Siegel, said Friday.
The couples, known as the "Nyack 10," had claimed that the law did not specifically bar same-sex couples from marrying. But the judge said the legislature's use of phrases such as "husband and wife" and "bride and groom" made its intentions clear. The couples had also claimed that the denial of marriage licenses was unconstitutional discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but Weiner dismissed that as well.
Siegel said he would appeal the ruling. "The decision is legally incorrect," he said. "The struggle to obtain equal justice under the law for same-sex couples in New York State will continue."
Each of the couples was denied a marriage license application in March by Charlotte Madigan, clerk for the Town of Orangetown, which includes Nyack. She said she was acting on the advice of state attorney general Eliot Spitzer, who had already declared that same-sex marriages were illegal in New York. The
couples sued her and the state. They were led by Nyack mayor John Shields, who had originally planned to officiate at a same-sex wedding ceremony but decided to go to court rather than risk arrest. The mayor of New Paltz had recently been arrested for holding such weddings.
Shields told The Journal News that Weiner, who is running for a supreme court seat, had made "a political decision rather than a decision for the civil rights of all people." Siegel predicted that the case would end up in the court of appeals, the state's highest court. The issue has spawned several lawsuits in New York and other states, and initiatives to ban same-sex marriage are on next month's ballot in 11 states.