ALBANY, N.Y. (BP)–Lawyers for 44 homosexual couples appeared before New York state’s highest court May 31, asking the judges to strike down the state’s marriage laws and make it the next state in the nation to legalize “gay marriage.”
The six judges on the Court of Appeals heard more than two hours of oral arguments and gave no indication how or when they might rule. A seventh judge, Albert M. Rosenblatt, recused himself since his daughter, an attorney, has advocated for “gay marriage.”
“[W]hen constitutional rights are at stake and the legislature is falling short of protecting them, it is quintessentially the role of the court,” Susan Sommer, an attorney with the homosexual activist group Lambda Legal, told the court.
Two intermediate state appeals courts previously ruled against “gay marriage,” and attorneys for Lambda Legal and other liberal groups appealed to the high court. The six-judge court sets up a possible 3-3 tie, which could result in the lower court rulings simply being affirmed. But a spokesman for the Court of Appeals told The New York Times that in the event of a tie, a seventh judge could be brought in to decide the case.
Massachusetts remains the only state to recognize “gay marriage,” and homosexual activists have been waiting for months for a second state to join the list. Supreme courts in Washington state and New Jersey also are considering cases that could result in marriage being redefined.
It is possible that by the end of 2006, four states will have legalized “gay marriage.”
The judges asked tough questions of each side.
Judge George Bundy Smith asked more than once, “Why isn’t this a legislative matter?”
Judge Robert S. Smith saved his toughest questions for the attorneys advocating “gay marriage.” At one point he said, “Nobody even thought it was necessary to limit marriage to opposite sex couples because it seemed so obvious for all those years. Can you think of a case where something that was that well accepted for that many centuries was found unconstitutional?” But he also asked the other side, according to The New York Times, “Aren’t homosexuals … the classic example of people who have been abused and discriminated against …?”
Leonard Koerner, an attorney representing New York City who was defending the state’s marriage laws, said procreation was a primary reason that marriage is limited to one man and one woman.
“What you want is to encourage stability of the family,” he said.
Peter H. Schiff, representing the state attorney general, argued that if “there are going to be changes, it ought to be done by the legislature.”
Complicating matters is the fact that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, support “gay marriage” legalization. Yet both men had attorneys before the high court opposing it.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage