N.Y. Ban on Gay Marriage Annulled
By Josh Getlin
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 5, 2005
NEW YORK — A New York judge struck down the state's ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional Friday, paving the way for five same-sex couples to wed and opening the door to a contentious battle over the issue in the Empire State.
State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, however, stayed her ruling for 30 days — expecting that there would be appeals. The Supreme Court is
The lawsuit, filed last year in
"Simply put, marriage is viewed by society as the utmost expression of a couple's commitment and love," Ling-Cohan wrote in a 62-page opinion. "Plaintiffs may now seek this ultimate expression through a civil marriage."
Gay and heterosexual couples, she said, "are entitled to the same fundamental right to follow their hearts and publicly commit to a lifetime partnership with the person of their choosing. The recognition that this fundamental right applies equally to same-sex couples cannot legitimately be said to harm anyone."
The New York City Law Department, which argued in the case that granting same-sex marriage licenses violated the state constitution, said in a statement Friday: "We are reviewing the decision thoroughly and considering our options."
Opponents of same-sex marriage criticized the ruling as misguided, predicting a court battle and potential action by the state Legislature to prevent gay unions.
"I believe it is inconsistent with logic and reason," said state Sen. Serphin R. Maltese, a Queens Republican who has introduced a bill to ban gay marriage.
In a statement on his website, Maltese said the ruling ignored "our Founding Fathers' intention that marriage be an institution between a man and a woman."
Last year, New York Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer issued an opinion that state law banned same-sex marriages; however, he said the law raised "important constitutional questions" and could be subject to legal challenge. Spitzer also said same-sex marriage licenses granted in other states should be recognized in
Friday's ruling — which for now applies only to
Lambda Legal Defense Fund, a national gay advocacy group, hailed Ling-Cohan's decision as a "historic ruling that delivers the state constitution's promise of equality to all New Yorkers," said Susan Sommer, Lambda's lead attorney in the case.
At a news conference in
"I'm going to sleep better with the legal protection of a marriage," Kennedy said, adding that she hoped to get a marriage license with Shain as quickly as possible.
Sommer said Lambda had filed similar litigation challenging laws in
"We hope for a similar ruling any day now … in the
The group, McKay added, "hopes to end marriage discrimination in both the courts and the Legislature this year."