Friday, February 04, 2005

Fireside Reading

Today's ruling in Manhattan that may open the door for same-sex marriage in New York State is fun reading. In a 62-page, very literate decision, New York State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan ranged from citing literature to the irony of one of the plaintiff couples.
Note: The decision link above is to a PDF file. You must have a compatible reader.
Curtis Woolbright’s interracial parents moved to California so that they could legally marry. He sued to get a license to marry his partner. Ling-Cohan wrote:
An instructive lesson can be learned from the history of the
anti-miscegenation laws and the court decisions which struck them down
as unconstitutional. The challenges to laws banning whites and
non-whites from marriage demonstrate that the fundamental right to
marry the person of one's choice may not be denied based on
longstanding and deeply held traditional beliefs about appropriate
marital partners.

We can we sure the anti-same-sex marriage groups are fuming. They hate that argument.

Ling-Cohan also differentiates New York law from the Massachusetts decision on the same matter. She acknowledges that the existing New York laws did not expressly bar same-sex marriages, unlike incestuous ones, only because the legislators at the time had no experience with them. Instead, she sees the case turning on state constitutional due-process and equal protection issues.

Her reasoning on constitutional and case-law bases takes over half the decision. Again, it is good reading and illustrates what the legal issues are.

For many, the cut-to-the-chase moments are in the last two pages, specifically
  • Plaintiff's receive their summary judgment
  • The city license clerk's cross-motion for dismissal is denied
  • The state Domestic Relations Law (DRL), Article 1, Sections 6 and 11 are unconstitutional
  • Where husband, wife, groom and bride appear in the DRL, they shall mean spouse, and related pronouns will apply equally to genders
  • The licensing office can not longer deny wedding licenses "solely on the ground that the two persons in that couple are of the same sex"
  • Implementation of the order is stayed for 30 days
The licensing clerk and other interested parties have a month to scheme and stew...and appeal.

If there is an appeal or a fight with the early ruling in Albany, it will go to the state Court of Appeals.

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