February 18, 2006
Case Law Development: Intermediate New York Court Denies Same-Sex Challenge to Marriage Restrictions
New York’s marriage law is constitutional, a five-judge panel of the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Judicial District ruled Thursday. In its ruling, the intermediate court addressed three separate cases involving gay couples that were refused marriage licenses in the state of New York. They had argued that the state’s definition of marriage, as being only between a man and a woman, violated New York’s Constitution and implicated provisions concerning equality, privacy and legal access.
Justice John Lahtinen, writing for a unanimous court, stated that the role of defining the boundaries of marriage "has always been subject to the control of the Legislature" and, even though a particular judge or judges may disagree with the wisdom of some aspects of the restrictions, it is an area "left to the legislature to resolve.”
The court noted that several appellate courts in other jurisdictions have addressed a similar issue under their constitutions and, in some instances, the US Constitution and have arrived at varying conclusions, often by divided votes. However, it observed that in New York the First Department recently held that maintaining the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman does not violate the NY Constitution (Hernandez v Robles, ___ AD3d ___, 805 NYS2d 354 ) and, although it addressed the issue in a somewhat different context, the Second Department had indicated a similar conclusion. The decision is expected to be appealed to New York’s highest court. Download here the slip opinion, Seymour_v. Holcomb, City Clerk of Ithaca.pdf (reo)
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