NEW YORK (BP)–A New York state judge ruled Feb. 4 that same-sex “marriage” must be legalized there, making New York the third state nationwide where such a ruling has been issued in recent months. The ruling likely will be appealed.
New York Justice Doris Ling-Cohan ruled on behalf of five homosexual couples who had sought a marriage license in New York City but were denied and subsequently sued New York City’s clerk. They are represented in part by the homosexual legal group Lambda Legal.
Ling-Cohan ruled that the state’s current marriage laws violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the New York constitution.
“[T]he institution of marriage has evolved over time,” Ling-Cohan wrote in her 62-page decision. “… The exclusion of plaintiffs from entering into civil marriage indisputably discriminates against them on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Ling-Cohan sits on the state Supreme Court, which is at the trial-court level in New York’s legal system. The Court of Appeals is the highest court.
New York is the third state in the past 16 months where a court has ruled for same-sex “marriage.” In November 2003, Massachusetts’ highest court legalized “gay marriage.” The ruling took effect last May.
And last year, two judges in Washington state issued similar rulings. Both cases are now before Washington state’s highest court, which will hear the case in March.
Homosexual and liberal activists had filed several lawsuits in New York State, believing that they eventually would be victorious in at least one of them. In the past few months, at least two judges had upheld the state’s marriage laws.
Pro-family leaders criticized Ling-Cohan’s ruling.
“To preserve marriage we have to win 100 percent of the time,” Mathew Staver, president of the pro-family legal group Liberty Counsel, told Baptist Press. “To destroy the institution, we only need one loss. And that’s another reason why we need constitutional amendments on the state and federal level.”
Liberty Counsel filed a friend-of-the-court brief, defending the state law. The organization represented three state legislators, the New York Family Policy Council and Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long.
Figuring prominently in Ling-Cohan’s decision was the Massachusetts case that legalized same-sex “marriage” (Goodridge v. Department of Public Health) and the U.S. Supreme court decision overturning anti-sodomy laws (Lawrence v. Texas). She cited Goodridge at least 10 times and Lawrence at least 11. Conservatives have warned that the two cases would lead to a domino effect.
Ling-Cohan said the five same-sex couples have suffered under a “caste-determined status” of marriage laws. She wrote fondly of the five couples, calling them “committed and loving relationships.”
“Permitting plaintiffs to marry would confer innumerable tangible and intangible benefits for them and their children while causing harm to no one,” Ling-Cohan wrote. “Defendant has articulated no legitimate State purpose that is rationally served by a bar to same-sex marriage, let alone a compelling State interest in such a bar.”
Staver criticized the decision’s reasoning.
“I’m astounded by the decision because the court invents the ‘fundamental right to choose one’s spouse,'” he said. “It also states that there’s no legitimate [state] interest or purpose in the marriage laws. And she finds on her own that same-sex ‘marriage’ will not cause anyone harm. Those are astounding conclusions by a single judge.”
Ling-Cohan compared the current bans on same-sex “marriage” to former bans on interracial marriage. In fact, the first five pages of her ruling recounted the history of the interracial bans, which were struck down for good in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1967 Loving v. Virginia case.
“It was only less than 40 years ago that the United States Supreme Court held that anti-miscegenation statutes, adopted to prevent marriages between persons solely on the basis of racial classification, violate the Constitution because they infringed on the freedom to marry a person of one’s choice,” she wrote. “Similarly, this Court must so hold in the context of same-sex marriages.”
Staver said the comparisons between interracial marriage and same-sex “marriage” are appalling.
“I think the comparison to interracial marriage is totally inappropriate because race is an immutable characteristic and sexual preference is not,” he said. “Plus, the interracial marriage rulings still left intact the essence of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Same-sex marriage obliterates the institution.”
She stayed her decision 30 days to allow the defense to appeal, but she noted what changes need to be made within the current laws.
“[T]he words ‘husband,’ ‘wife,’ ‘groom’ and ‘bride,’ as they appear in the relevant sections of the Domestic Relationship Law are and shall be construed to mean ‘spouse,’ and all personal pronouns, as they appear in the relevant sections of the Domestic Relations Law, are and shall be construed to apply equally to either men or women,” she wrote.
New York is one of eight states currently in state court defending its marriage laws. In addition, lawsuits against the Defense of Marriage Act are pending in federal courts in two states. DOMA gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s same-sex “marriages.” If struck down, then all 50 states presumably would be forced to recognize “gay marriage.”
While approximately 38 states have laws specifically banning same-sex “marriage,” New York is not one of them. In 16 of those states, the bans are written within their respective constitutions. A 17th state, Hawaii, has a constitutional amendment that gives the state legislature the power to ban same-sex “marriage.”
Lambda Legal’s Susan Sommer, the lead attorney in the case, called it an “historic ruling.”
“The court recognized that unless gay people can marry, they are not being treated equally under the law,” Sommer said in a statement. “Same-sex couples need the protections and security marriage provides, and this ruling says they’re entitled to get them the same way straight couples do.”
But Alliance Defense Fund attorney Byron Babione said Ling-Cohan ignored the previous two trial court rulings. ADF is a pro-family group that has figured prominently in the national same-sex “marriage” legal battle.
“Let’s put this in context,” he said in a statement. “There have been two decisions at the trial court level and one Appellate Division decision affirming marriage as one man and one woman. Today’s ruling ignores those decisions. This is another example of judicial activism where the court shut out the voters and elected officials from deciding this matter.”
The case is Hernandez v. Robles.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage