Judge Strikes Down NY Ban on Gay Marriage

From 1010 WINS – New York’s All News Station
Feb 4, 2005 2:23 pm US/Eastern
A Manhattan judge declared Friday that the section of state law that forbids same-sex marriage is unconstitutional — the first ruling of its kind in New York and one that if upheld on appeal would allow gay couples to wed.
State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan ruled that the words “husband,” “wife,” “groom” and “bride” in relevant sections of the Domestic Relations Law “shall be construed to mean ‘spouse,”‘ and “all personal pronouns … shall be construed to apply equally to either men or women.”
Ling-Cohan ruled on the side of five same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses. She said the New York City clerk could not deny a license to any couple solely on the ground that the two are of the same sex.
Susan Sommer, Lambda Legal Defense Fund lawyer who presented the case for the five couples, called the ruling “historic” and said it “delivers the state Constitution’s promise of equality to all New Yorkers.”
“The court recognized that unless gay people can marry, they are not being treated equally under the law,” Sommer said. “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.”
One couple, Mary Jo Kennedy and Jo-Ann Shain, said they were very happy about the ruling and believed it would offer their family increased legal protection. They have been together 23 years, registered as domestic partners in 1993, and have a 15-year-old daughter who is Shain’s biological child.
“We’re just overjoyed,” said Shain. “We didn’t think it would ever happen.”
Kennedy said she wants to marry Shain as soon as possible. “I can’t wait,” she said. “We went to buy a (marriage) license in March 2004 and couldn’t get it. That’s what started this whole thing.”
Shain said, “We’re looking forward to trying to buy another one, and this time actually getting it.”
“I’m going to sleep better with the legal protection of a marriage,” Kennedy said.
The city Law Department issued a statement saying only, “We are reviewing the decision thoroughly and considering our options.”
Ling-Cohan noted that one plaintiff, Curtis Woolbright, is the son of an interracial couple who moved to California in 1966 to marry. She said California then was the only state whose courts had ruled that interracial marriage prohibitions were unconstitutional.
Some courts, Ling-Cohan wrote, justified anti-miscegenation laws (bans on interracial marriage) as defending tradition rooted in “natural” law. They “rejected the rights of adults to choose their marital partners based on outmoded prejudices that are now recognized as illegitimate grounds for government action.”
(I for one am happy to finally see New York acting like New York! It’s about time. No matter what the long-term ramifications are of this ruling, I’m still glad to see it. – hb.)