New York Trial Court Decision Denying Marriage for Same-Sex Couples Advances ACLU Lawsuit to Appeals Court

December 7, 2004

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: media@aclu.org

NEW YORK - A New York trial court judge issued a decision today finding that the New York constitution allows the state to continue to exclude same-sex couples from marriage. The American Civil Liberties Union will appeal the decision.

"Basically, the judge said that the critical questions of whether all people have a fundamental right to marry or whether the government is justified in excluding same-sex couples from marriage, should be decided by a higher court," said James Esseks, Litigation Director for the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "It's not terribly surprising that a lower court judge would rule this way. Trial judges in Oregon and Washington as well as other courts in New York have said that constitutional guarantees of equality don't allow same-sex couples to be excluded from marrying. But virtually all of the judges have acknowledged that this is an issue for state high courts."

The ACLU, together with the law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP, filed the lawsuit in Albany, NY, on behalf of 13 couples from throughout New York who wish to marry in the state. Today's decision was issued in response to a motion filed by the ACLU asking the court to strike down New York marriage laws because they violate the state constitutional guarantees of equality, liberty and freedom of speech. Believing that it was bound by an 11-year-old case decided by a New York appeals court, the court allowed the marriage laws to stand.

"It's hard not to be disappointed for the many couples who need to be able to protect their families, but we've known all along that this case was headed for the New York appeals courts," said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "We believe that once the appeals courts are given the opportunity to see how same-sex couples are harmed when they are denied access to the protections of marriage, they will agree that the state can no longer discriminate in this way."

The ACLU is evaluating its legal options for an appeal and will announce its plans soon.

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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