New York’s highest court ruled yesterday that the state’s marriage laws are constitutional and that homosexual couples cannot “marry.”
“We hold that the New York Constitution does not compel recognition of marriages between members of the same sex,” Judge Robert S. Smith said in the 4-2 ruling by the New York State Court of Appeals. “Whether such marriages should be recognized is a question to be addressed by the Legislature.”
Shortly after the New York decision was issued, supporters of traditional marriage received more welcome news when the Georgia Supreme Court upheld that state’s voter-approved marriage amendment, which disallows same-sex “marriage.” The unanimous decision overturns a lower court ruling that said the Georgia amendment contained misleading ballot language.
Conservative activists praised both courts for their “judicial restraint” and respect for “the people’s voice.” The New York decision “will echo loudly throughout America’s courtrooms,” said Chris Stovall, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund.
“Most Americans believe that gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose. But they don’t believe they have a right to redefine marriage for our entire society,” said Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage.
Homosexual rights groups in New York said they would focus on lawmakers. Both New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Eliot Spitzer have signaled support for same-sex “marriage.”
“This struggle is far from over,” said Susan Sommer, a Lambda Legal lawyer who represented some of the plaintiffs.
But the disappointment was palpable.
The New York court’s “archaic reasoning is rooted in ignorance,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual rights advocacy organization.
Two more pivotal decisions on same-sex “marriage” are expected this year from the Supreme Courts in New Jersey and Washington.
In yesterday’s majority opinion, Judge Smith cited the welfare of children as a reason why state law can rationally reserve marriage for man-woman couples.
“It is better, other things being equal, for children to grow up with both a mother and father,” he wrote.
He also rejected plaintiffs’ arguments that New York marriage laws were based on ignorance and prejudice against homosexuals.
“If we were convinced that” state marriage law was “founded on nothing but prejudice … we would hold it invalid, no matter how long its history,” he wrote. But by “limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples, New York is not engaging in sex discrimination.”
But Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye, who dissented with Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, said the court’s ruling was a retreat from the state’s “proud tradition of affording equal rights to all New Yorkers.”
The meaning of marriage has changed over time, she wrote, and “it is no answer that same-sex couples can be excluded from marriage because ‘marriage,’ by definition, does not include them.”
The New York case merged four lawsuits filed by 44 homosexual couples. State Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, brother of entertainer Rosie O’Donnell, was among the plaintiffs.
During the course of the lawsuits, only one lower court judge ruled in favor of the homosexual plaintiffs. New York Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan made headlines in February 2005 when she ruled that denying marriage rights to same-sex couples was akin to denying marriage to interracial couples.
But Judge Ling-Cohan’s decision was overturned in an appellate court, and all other lower court and appellate courts upheld state marriage laws.
To date, the only state to legalize same-sex “marriage” is Massachusetts. In addition to Washington and New Jersey, right-to-“marry” lawsuits have been filed in California, Connecticut, Iowa and Maryland.
Georgia is one of 20 states with a marriage amendment. Voters in at least five more states will vote on amendments in November.