ACLU Applauds Decision by New York Trial Judge Striking Down Laws Banning Same-Sex Couples from Marrying

February 4, 2005

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: media@aclu.org

NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union applauded a decision by a New York trial court issued today striking down as unconstitutional New York marriage laws that ban same-sex couples from marrying.

"This court has moved the struggle to secure marriage protections for same-sex couples a great leap forward in New York. The court recognized how unfair it is to deprive couples who make life-long commitments to each other of the many protections they need and deserve for their families," said James Esseks, Litigation Director of the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "We applaud Lambda Legal, counsel to the plaintiffs in today's decision, as well as the plaintiffs in the other marriage lawsuits around New York state, who are all working toward the same goal."

Lower courts in New York are split on the issue of marriage for same-sex couples; the New York Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, will have the ultimate say. The ACLU, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP, filed a similar lawsuit in Albany, NY, on behalf of 13 same-sex couples from throughout New York who wish to marry. The trial judge there upheld the current marriage laws in December 2004. The ACLU has asked the Court of Appeals to take the case, which would be the first of the New York cases to reach that court. The court is expected to decide whether to take the case within the next two months.

The plaintiffs represented by the ACLU, like so many same-sex couples throughout the state, demonstrate the types of harms that these couples face when they are denied the protections of marriage.

Heather McDonnell and Carol Snyder have been together 14 years. When Carol was told she had breast cancer 11 years ago, nurses and other hospital staff constantly challenged Heather during Carol's hospital stay about whether she could be there. Just two years ago, when Carol had a cardiac event following a bad reaction to medication, Heather suffered similar discrimination in the hospital and was even asked to leave Carol's side, just minutes after the attending physician had asked her to help stabilize Carol when her vital signs were crashing.

Cindy Bink and Ann Pachner have been a couple for 16 years. Cindy recently had to give up her job of 17 years and take a job with the City of New York in order to provide health insurance benefits for Ann, who does not receive benefits as a freelance magazine consultant and sculptor. Wade Nichols and Francis Shen, together more than five years, have been forced to live in separate countries as U.S. immigration laws don't recognize their relationship because they are not married.

Biographical information about the couples represented by the ACLU and the harms they have suffered because they are unable to marry is available at: /cpredirect/12116.

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