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New York's highest court rejects marriage equality

(The Advocate) New York's highest court ruled this morning that there is no right to same-sex marriage under current state law. In a 4-2 decision, the Court of Appeals asserted that marriage is restricted to opposite-sex couples in the state and that the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians are not violated because of that, the Associated Press reports.

However, the judges acknowledged the possibility that New York's legislature could change state law to allow marriage equality. "We do not predict what people will think generations from now, but we believe the present generation should have a chance to decide the issue through its elected representatives," Judge Robert Smith wrote for the majority, according to the AP.

Four cases involving 44 same-sex couples from around the state were combined into one omnibus case for the court to rule on. In three of those cases, lower courts had rejected a right to same-sex marriage, but a New York City court had ruled in favor of it.

"It's a sad day for New York families," plaintiff Kathy Burke of Schenectady, who's raising an 11-year-old son with her partner of seven years, told the AP. "My family deserves the same protections as my next door neighbors."


Empire State Pride Agenda released the following statement:
Albany, July 6, 2006 - New York State's highest court today in a four to two vote found no Constitutional mandate to provide same-sex couples access to marriage. The decision-which comes after more than two years of litigation, community education and organizing-leaves same-sex couples and their families without the access to the protections that the government gives to all other families through marriage.

"It is unacceptable that the Court has turned its back on New York's long history of equality and justice," said Alan Van Capelle, Executive Director of Empire State Pride Agenda. "Today's decision is far from the end of the battle for New York's lesbian and gay families. The Court has had its say, and now it is time for our elected officials to stand against discrimination and support marriage equality. Today, the Pride Agenda begins a campaign to press Albany to pass a marriage bill in 2007. For two years, legislators have waited for the Court to rule on this issue. It's now time for Albany to lead."

Families across the state also called upon their elected officials for support:

"Equal protection under the law has not been granted to my partner and me, together for over thirteen years in a committed, loving relationship." said Manhattan resident Scott Sinclair, speaking about his long-term relationship with Rob Buchanan. "To treat our relationship different than that of opposite-sex couples is discriminatory and we are shocked at the Court's ruling. This can not continue and my partner and I, along with many others, will take this matter to our elected representatives."

"It is now time for my legislators to support my family," said Albany resident Darcy Rickard. "My family is based on love. And that love needs the protections that come with marriage."

"It's appalling that our government doesn't want to give us the tools necessary to protect our family," said Rochester residents Jo Meleca and Christine Voigt. "As tax-paying, law-abiding Americans we deserve the full rights of citizenship. We will not rest until we get them. We will be asking out legislators to do the right thing and end this discrimination."

"This evening a broad coalition of supporters will gather in cities across New York to send a clear message that marriage equality is the right thing for our state," said Van Capelle. "Over the past two years, people of faith, organized labor, business leaders and many other allies have spoken out for the need for equality for all New York families. Today we stand with the majority of New Yorkers who want lawmakers to make the right decision and support equal access to marriage."

The Pride Agenda is organizing statewide rallies to call for swift legislative action in granting equal access to marriage. The rallies will be held in seven locations across the state, including New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse; in attendance will be same-sex couples, local elected officials, union leaders and clergy.

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