New York court says yes to gay marriage

By Tim Grieve

Published February 4, 2005 4:47PM (EST)

Two days after George W. Bush renewed his call for a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a court in New York has just ruled that gay men and lesbians in that state must be granted the right to marry.

The court's decision, which comes in a case the Lambda Legal Foundation filed on behalf of five same-sex couples, says that the state's constitution guarantees gay men and lesbians the same basic freedoms available to heterosexuals --- and that those rights are violated when the state denies marriage licenses to gay couples.

We talked briefly this morning with Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for Lambda, who was 22 pages into the 62-page decision. His early take: The decision relies on legal reasoning similar to that followed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court when it ruled in favor of marriage equality, but this one may be "stronger and more solidly worded."

In a statement emailed to reporters, Lambda attorney Susan Sommer called the decision a "historic ruling that delivers the state Constitution's promise of equality to all New Yorkers." She said that the court "recognized that unless gay people can marry, they are not being treated equally under the law. 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."

The decision comes from the New York Supreme Court, which, contrary to what its name suggests, is not the state's highest court. An appeal can be made to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, and then to New York's Court of Appeals. Today's ruling is a beginning in New York, but it's a long way from an end.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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