NEW YORK- July 6 - The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force decried today’s 4-2 decision by New York’s highest court that the state constitution does not require extending the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples. The Task Force called upon state leaders – including Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer and State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver – to pledge today that they will do everything possible to pass and sign into law a marriage equality bill when the legislature comes back into session in January, 2007.
Statement by Matt Foreman, Executive Director National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
“Today’s tortured and intellectually strained decision is beyond disappointing. It is insulting to gay and lesbian people and our families. It is an egregious departure from the New York Court of Appeal’s long and proud tradition of advancing liberty and dismantling discrimination. It is a disgrace to the constitution and the people of New York.”
“The majority opinion offers utterly absurd reasons why the legislature could choose to limit marriage to opposite sex couples. For example, it says ‘the legislature could find that unstable relationships between people of the opposite sex present a greater danger that children will be born into or grow up in unstable homes than is the case with same-sex couples, and thus that promoting stability in opposite-sex relationships will help children more.’ If the results of this decision were not so profoundly hurtful, this kind of reaching – which permeates the entire opinion - would render it laughable.”
“It is now time for elected officials to end the immoral discrimination gay families face by being denied the freedom to marry through affirmative legislation. We call upon state leaders – including Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer and State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver – to pledge today that they will do everything possible to enact a marriage equality law when the Legislature comes back into session in January, 2007. We will do everything we can to support our community’s outstanding and leading advocate in Albany, the Empire State Pride Agenda, in this effort.”
“Nothing in this result, however, takes away from our gratitude to the plaintiffs in Hernandez and all the cases for their determination and courage in seeking this right on behalf of hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian New Yorkers. And we are equally and ever grateful to Lambda Legal, the ACLU and their cooperating counsel for the years of committed, hard work that went into these cases. The Task Force is pleased to have had the privilege of being an amicus curiae in the Court of Appeals proceedings.”
“Finally, we praise Chief Judge Judith Kaye for her ringing dissent (joined by Judge Ciparick). She said it best: ‘Simply put, fundamental rights are fundamental rights. They are not defined in terms of who is entitled to exercise them.’”
Background: The Hernandez decision is the final disposition of four separate lawsuits filed in several counties throughout the state by Lambda Legal, the ACLU and cooperating attorneys on behalf of more than 40 gay and lesbian couples seeking the right to marry in New York. In the Hernandez case itself, the trial court had ruled for the gay and lesbian couples, holding that the state domestic relations laws limiting marriage to a man and a woman violated the equal protection and due process guarantees of the New York constitution, but the intermediate appellate court reversed, finding no constitutional violation and suggesting that the question of marriage equality was one for the state legislature. In the other three cases, the trial courts had all ruled that the state marriage laws did not violate the constitution and the intermediate appellate courts had affirmed those rulings.
The Task Force was one of a number of national civil rights organizations to join in an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief to the Court of Appeals.