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
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."
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."
decision will apply to all lesbian and gay New Yorkers. It
is unknown when the court will issue its ruling.