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New York high
court hears case for same-sex marriage

New York high
court hears case for same-sex marriage

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New York's highest court on Wednesday heard arguments in several cases seeking same-sex marriage rights in the state.

Gay rights attorneys argued before New York's highest court on Wednesday in favor of providing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the state. In testimony that lasted over two hours, the New York court of appeals listened to attorneys working with Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union. The court heard four same-sex marriage cases in all.

"We are hopeful that we succeeded in persuading the members of the court of appeals that denying same-sex couples protections for their families is inconsistent with New York's unique and rich history of tolerance and equality for all," said Roberta Kaplan of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison, who argued on behalf of the couples in the ACLU's case. "Lesbians and gay people who fall in love, make commitments to each other, and raise children together deserve to have all of the protections that married New Yorkers take for granted."

Lambda Legal's lawsuit Hernandez v. Robles was the first such case the state's high court had ever agreed to hear. "Today is an historic day for same-sex couples and their families in New York," said Susan Sommer, senior counsel at Lambda Legal and lead attorney on the Lambda case. "Our clients Mary Jo Kennedy and Jo-Ann Shain hope to be able to celebrate their 25th anniversary together next year as lawfully wedded spouses. I hope that what the court heard today showed them why the unconstitutional practice of barring such couples from marriage in New York needs to come to a swift end."

Lambda Legal filed its case in March 2004. The lawsuit seeks marriage equality for same-sex couples in New York and argues that denying these couples the right to marry violates the state constitution's guarantees of equality, liberty, and privacy for all New Yorkers. The trial court issued its ruling in the couples' favor in February 2005, and New York City decided to appeal. The mid-level appeals court handed down its decision in the city's favor in December.

"In 1966 my parents couldn't get married in many states because my father is black and my mother is white; in 2006, I hope to marry my partner," said Curtis Woolbright, who along with his partner, Daniel Reyes, is one of five couples represented by Lambda seeking the right to marry in New York. "Should Daniel and I be privileged to have our own children, we hope that they will be able to one day look back with the same shock and astonishment that I felt when my parents told me that there was a time in our country when two people who loved each other and wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of their lives together and make a family together were denied that right in many states."

The court's decision will apply to all lesbian and gay New Yorkers. It is unknown when the court will issue its ruling. (The Advocate)

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