A New York trial court judge in Albany issued a decision today finding that the New York constitution allows the state to continue to exclude same-sex couples from marriage. The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union will appeal the decision.
“It’s hard not to be disappointed for the many couples who need to be able to protect their families, but we’ve known all along that this case was headed for the New York appeals courts,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “We believe that once the appeals courts are given the opportunity to see how same-sex couples are harmed when they are denied access to the protections of marriage, they will agree that the state can no longer discriminate in this way.”
The ACLU and NYCLU filed the lawsuit in Albany, NY, on behalf of 13 couples from throughout New York who wish to marry in the state. Today’s decision was issued in response to a motion filed by the organizations asking the court to strike down New York marriage laws because they violate the state constitutional guarantees of equality, liberty and freedom of speech. Believing that it was bound by an 11-year-old case decided by a New York appeals court, the State Supreme Court judge allowed the marriage laws to stand.
“Basically, the judge said that the critical questions of whether all people have a fundamental right to marry or whether the government is justified in excluding same-sex couples from marriage, should be decided by a higher court,” said James Esseks, Litigation Director for the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “It’s not terribly surprising that a lower court judge would rule this way. Trial judges in Oregon and Washington as well as other courts in New York have said that constitutional guarantees of equality don’t allow same-sex couples to be excluded from marrying. But virtually all of the judges have acknowledged that this is an issue for state high courts.”
The ACLU and NYCLU, together with the law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP, are evaluating the legal options for an appeal and will announce their plans soon.
Biographical information about the couples represented in the case and the harms they have suffered because they are unable to marry is available at www.aclu.org/LesbianGayRights/LesbianGayRights.cfm?ID=15438&c=101.