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Religious And Civil Rights Groups Urge New York’s High Court To Strike Down Laws Barring Same-Sex Couples From Marriage

In 14 friend-of-the-court briefs filed with the New York Court of Appeals, national and statewide religious and civil rights leaders and organizations urge the court to put an end to state laws that deny same-sex couples the protections of marriage.

The court will hear oral arguments in lawsuits brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and others on behalf of same-sex couples on May 31, 2006.

The brief filed by the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund explains that laws that bar same-sex couples from marriage are similar to laws banning inter-racial marriage that were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. A brief by the New York County Lawyers Association and the National Black Justice Coalition makes similar arguments.

"It's wrong for New York to continue to deny same-sex couples and their children equal protections for their families," said Victor Bolden, General Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. "The constitution protects the right of individuals to marry whomever they love regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation."

Nearly 200 religious organizations, congregations and clergy from throughout the state also filed a brief pointing out that there is broad support among religions for marriage for same-sex couples while acknowledging that allowing same-sex couples to marry will not force religious groups that do not wish to marry same-sex couples to do so. Religious groups signing the brief include Episcopal, United Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of Christ and Unitarian churches, and conservative and reform Jewish temples.

"As a pastor who has served several congregations over the past 21 years, I've seen first-hand the loving bonds and beautiful families that have grown out of the lasting commitments of gay, lesbian and straight couples," says the Reverend Steve Clunn of the First United Methodist Church of Schenectady. "While the U.S. Constitution guarantees that various religious groups will always be free to marry whom they please, I and many of my colleagues long for the day when the state will not stand in the way of our ability to marry same-sex couples."

Other friend-of-the-court briefs that have been filed in the cases include:


  • A brief by the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the New York State Psychiatric Association on the nature of sexual orientation and how sexual orientation should not be used to bar same-sex couples from marriage or raising children.
  • A brief from the National Organization for Women, the New York Women's Bar Association and other women's groups charging that barring marriage for same-sex couples constitutes sex discrimination.
  • A brief from the National Association of Social Workers, the Child Welfare Fund, and the Association to Benefit Children charging that it harms children to prevent same-sex couples from marrying.
  • A brief by the Empire State Pride Agenda and other lesbian and gay advocacy groups explaining that allowing same-sex couples to marry would be consistent with New York public policy and laws.
  • A brief from history professors detailing the history of marriage and how it has changed over time.
  • A brief from law professors arguing that it is the Court of Appeal's role to ensure that the rights of same-sex couples to marry are upheld in New York.
  • A brief from the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the New York Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, National Employment Lawyers Association/New York and the Asian American Bar Association of New York explaining the many ways that same-sex couples and their children are harmed when they are denied the protections of marriage.

Some of New York's most respected law firms were responsible for drafting the friend-of-the-court briefs supporting marriage for same-sex couples. Firms providing pro bono support included Arnold & Porter LLP; Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; Debevoise & Plimpton LLP; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP; LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP; Ropes & Gray; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP; Whiteman Osterman Hanna LLP; and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.

The Court of Appeals will be hearing four separate cases on May 31st, all seeking marriage for same-sex couples. Samuels and Gallagher v. New York was brought by the NYCLU, the ACLU, and Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP against the Department of Health, which regulates marriage for most of the state. Hernandez v. Robles was brought by Lambda Legal, with pro bono co-counsel Kramer, Levin Naftalis & Frankel, against Victor Robles in his official capacity as City Clerk, which regulates marriages in New York City. The two additional cases were brought by private lawyers on behalf of same-sex couples from Ithaca, NY and Albany.

Additional information about Samuels and Gallagher, including copies of all of the friend-of-the-court briefs, are available online at Information about Hernandez is available at

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