A mid-level state
appeals court on Thursday upheld New York's marriage
law as constitutional, handing a defeat to same-sex couples
seeking to be married in the state. The five-judge
panel ruled in three separate cases brought on behalf
of gay couples denied marriage licenses. The similar
cases are among a handful that could eventually end up
before the state's highest court, the court of
appeals, which is widely expected to make the ultimate
judicial decision on the legality of same-sex marriage in
The supreme court
appellate division's ruling keeps the status quo on
same-sex marriage. Thursday's decision follows a 4-1
December ruling by the supreme court's appellate
division in New York City to reverse a lower court
decision that would have permitted same-sex couples to wed
in New York City.
The couples claim
state health regulations defining marriage as being
only a union between a man and a woman violate the state
constitution's equal protection, privacy, and
due-process provisions. Gov. George Pataki's health
department and state attorney general Eliot Spitzer have
said New York prohibits municipal clerks from issuing
licenses to same-sex couples.
In October, Peter
Schiff, senior counsel with the state attorney
general's office, argued before the appellate court that the
plaintiffs wanted the courts to rewrite the definition
of marriage. He said that job is best handled by the
legislative branch of government. The court agreed.
"In our opinion, the legislature is where the changes to
marriage" should be addressed, Justice John Lahtinen wrote
in the 5-0 decision.
courts had also ruled against the plaintiffs. All three
cases were filed in 2004 when the same-sex marriage
issue roiled the country from Boston to San Francisco.
The controversy landed in New York after the mayor of
the Hudson Valley village of New Paltz married about two
dozen same-sex couples in February 2004. "We look forward to
the day soon when the court of appeals will resolve
this question once and for all," said Susan Sommer,
senior lawyer with Lambda Legal, the gay rights
organization that spearheaded the same-sex marriage drive.
"We can't wait for our day in court when the state
constitution will be upheld and the rights of these
families will be honored." (AP)