High Court Calls for Legislature to Take Up Marriage Bill

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
November 10, 2009 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — Today, New York’s highest court unanimously affirmed the state’s ability to recognize the out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples. But because the case only involved one state agency’s recognition of out-of-state marriages, the four-judge majority called on the legislature to take up the marriage issue. The three concurring judges also noted the need for statewide recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages.

“The court today echoed what advocates and families across New York have been saying for years – the legislature must vote on the marriage bill,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The Assembly has passed marriage twice, the executive has demanded marriage, and now the judiciary has reiterated that the legislature must take this issue up – it is time for the Senate to stop playing politics with our families and finally vote on marriage.”

The NYCLU, the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Warton& Garrison LLP filed an amicus brief in the case in support of the families whose benefits were at stake on behalf of the NYCLU, ACLU, Empire State Pride Agenda, Marriage Equality New York, the LGBT Community Center and the Loft.

Among the families whose benefits were at issue in this case is Peri Rainbow and Tamela Sloan – a married same-sex couple who adopted a child with special needs. Without recognition of their marriage, Sloan and the couple’s child stood to lose their health benefits.

“This family shouldn’t be at risk because of politics,” Lieberman said. “Being able to get married – and protect your partner and your children – is a matter of human dignity.”

The State Assembly passed the marriage bill in May, and Governor Paterson has pledged his support for it. But the State Senate has thus far avoided putting the marriage bill to a vote.

“The time for our senators to stop the political maneuvering and lay their cards on the table is long overdue,” Lieberman said. “Do they support fairness and protecting families or not?”

Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont and Iowa have legalized marriage for lesbian and gay couples, but New Yorkers remain unable to get married in their home state.

In June, the NYCLU launched www.MarriageNY.com, a website featuring a dozen New York couples explaining why the right to get married matters to them.

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