ACLU Urges New York Appeals Court to End Unfairness Against Gay Couples in Marriage

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
May 19, 2005 12:00 am

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Religious Leaders, Civil Rights Advocates and Women’s Groups Announce Their Support

NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief today in a New York appeals court asking the court to strike down a New York law that bars lesbian and gay couples and their families from the protections of marriage. Religious leaders, civil rights advocates and women’s groups also announced their support for marriage for same-sex couples through friend-of-the-court briefs filed this week.

“With New York trial courts now split over the issue of marriage for same-sex couples, we are looking to the state’s appellate courts to end the unfairness that lesbian and gay couples face because they are unable to secure the protections of marriage for their families,” said James Esseks, Litigation Director for the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “Same-sex couples who commit to each other and build a life together shouldn’t be treated as legal strangers.”

The brief was filed today in the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department on behalf of 13 same-sex couples, many of whom had hoped to be married by New Paltz Mayor Jason West, but were unable to do so after he was forced to stop performing marriages for same-sex couples. The ACLU brought the lawsuit with the New York Civil Liberties Union and the law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP. The brief charges that New York law banning gay people from marriage violates the equal protection, due process and free expression provisions of the New York constitution.

“As more and more New Yorkers realize that lesbian and gay couples and their families suffer real, practical harms when they are denied the protections of marriage, they understand that this is a basic issue of fairness. The New York Constitution, after all, guarantees equal treatment,” said Roberta Kaplan of Paul Weiss. “Although the other side tries to frame this as a ‘fringe issue,’ the fact that so many religious, civil rights and professional organizations are coming forward to file briefs on our behalf shows the growing public awareness that all families — gay and straight — are entitled to the same kinds of protections.”

Nine friend-of-the-court briefs, representing a broad range of support for marriage for same-sex couples, were filed this week in support of the ACLU’s lawsuit. These included:

  • A brief signed by 145 religious leaders from throughout the state, including leaders from the Episcopal, United Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist and Unitarian churches, and conservative and reform temples, pointing out that there is broad support among religions for marriage for same-sex couples and acknowledging that allowing same-sex couples to marry civilly will not force religious groups that do not wish to perform marriages for same-sex couples to do so.
  • A brief signed by the American Psychological Association and the National Association of Social Workers detailing over two decades of social science research showing that gay people make the same kinds of commitments that straight people make and are just as good parents. Similarly, their children are just as well adjusted.
  • A brief from the National Organization for Women, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the New York Women’s Bar Association and other women’s groups charging that banning marriage for same-sex couples violates the state’s civil rights protections against sex discrimination.
  • A brief by People for the American Way and Asian Equality pointing out why it’s important for the New York courts to decide this key civil rights issue and explaining why full marriage (as opposed to civil unions) is the only way to end the unfairness that gay couples and their children face because they are not allowed to marry.

Oral arguments in the case are expected to take place sometime in October 2005.

For a copy of the ACLU’s brief and the nine friend-of-the-court briefs filed in support of Samuels and Gallagher, et. al., v. New York Department of Health, please visit /caseprofiles.

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