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N.Y. appeals court reverses ruling that allowed ‘gay marriage’; high court next stop

NEW YORK (BP)–A New York state appeals court Dec. 8 reversed a lower court ruling that would have legalized “gay marriage,” and in the process delivered an opinion that has conservatives applauding.

In a 4-1 decision, the appeals court ruled that a lower court judge “usurped the legislature’s mandated role” when she ruled in February that the state must legalize “gay marriage.” In that opinion earlier this year, New York trial court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan argued that the “institution of marriage has evolved over time” and that state laws that limit marriage to one man and one woman are discriminatory. Her decision was appealed.

But appeals court Justice Milton L. Williams, writing for the majority, said Ling-Cohan overstepped her authority.

“The power to regulate marriage lies with the legislature, not the judiciary,” Williams wrote. “… The motion court’s decision, by redefining traditional marriage, usurped the legislature’s mandated role to make policy decisions as to which type of family unit works best for society and therefore should be encouraged with benefits and other preferences.

“… This is an impermissible intrusion by the judiciary upon the legislative domain. The question of what statutory recognition, if any, same-sex couples should receive in New York is one that must be referred to the legislature in accordance with its historical role.”

The lawsuit was brought by five homosexual couples who had requested but were denied marriage licenses in New York City. They then sued the city clerk. The homosexual legal group Lambda Legal, which represents the couples, said Dec. 8 it would appeal the decision to the highest court in the state, the New York Court of Appeals. The case is one of at least three in New York state seeking the legalization of “gay marriage,” although this is the only where homosexuals have won on at least one level. Lambda Legal attorney Susan Sommer said in a statement that “history shows that fairness under the law will eventually prevail.”

Massachusetts remains the only state to recognize “gay marriage,” although a ruling from Washington state’s Supreme Court is expected any week now. Massachusetts’ law was changed in the infamous Goodridge decision by the state’s highest court.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal group that filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the New York case, praised the decision.

“If we have a balance of powers, then a court does not trump the legislature,” ADF attorney Glen Lavy told Baptist Press. “A court can say what is constitutional or what is not, but it does not have the right to create its own laws.

“… [Homosexual activists] have to be devastated. This is the Northeast. New York and Massachusetts are very similar in ideology, and for a New York appellate court to come out with this decision had to be devastating to them.”

Williams and the other justices heard oral arguments in September. In his decision, Williams said the majority found it “troubling” that Ling-Cohan — upon finding that the marriage law was unconstitutional — “proceeded to rewrite it and purportedly create a new constitutional right, an act that exceeded the court’s constitutional mandate and usurped that of the legislature.”

Ling-Cohan said the words “‘husband,’ ‘wife,’ ‘groom’ and ‘bride,'” in state law “shall be construed to mean ‘spouse,’ … and shall be construed to apply equally to either men or women.”

“Deprivation of legislative authority,” Williams wrote, “by judicial fiat, to make important, controversial policy decisions prolongs divisiveness and defers settlement of the issue; it is a miscarriage of the political process involved in considering such a policy change.”

The majority asserted that marriage between one man and one woman benefits society and that the state has a legitimate interest in limiting the marriage definition.

“Marriage promotes sharing of resources between men, women and the children that they procreate; provides a basis for the legal and factual assumption that a man is the father of his wife’s child via the legal presumption of paternity plus the marital expectations of monogamy and fidelity; and creates and develops a relationship between parents and child based on real, everyday ties,” Williams wrote. “It is based on the presumption that the optimal situation for child rearing is having both biological parents present in a committed, socially esteemed relationship. The law assumes that a marriage will produce children and affords benefits based on that assumption.”

New York state’s marriage law, William argued, assumes that marriages will produce children. The law “affords benefits based on that assumption.”

“[The law] sets up heterosexual marriage as the cultural, social and legal ideal in an effort to discourage unmarried childbearing and to encourage sufficient marital childbearing to sustain the population and society; the entire society, even those who do not marry, depend on a healthy marriage culture for this latter, critical, but presently undervalued, benefit.

“Marriage laws are not primarily about adult needs for official recognition and support, but about the well-being of children and society, and such preference constitutes a rational policy decision. Thus, society and government have reasonable, important interests in encouraging heterosexual couples to accept the recognition and regulation of marriage.”

Rena Lindevaldsen, an attorney with the conservative legal group Liberty Counsel, said the decision “means that every court in New York has upheld the state’s marriage laws.”

“This is a clear victory for the family,” she said in a press release.

Lavy, of the Alliance Defense Fund, noted that in 2005 alone, conservatives have won marriage legal battles in Indiana, New Jersey and New York.

“[They are] three very strong opinions — all of them criticizing Goodridge for adopting the commitment model to marriage rather than the procreation model,” he said. “… Goodridge is really standing out there as an aberration.”
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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  • Michael Foust