Angry New Yorker

Friday, February 25, 2005
A New York State Supreme Court Recognizes The Judiciaries Limits. Who'd a Thunk It?

We've had a wide variety of commentors and commentaries to our postings here, but perhaps no issue provokes a more vehement response than same-sex "marriage." When we analyzed Justice Doris Ling-Cohan's decision last week (here) it grew rather heated on the comments section. Granted, we tend to shoot first and ask question later, but it was clear that no amount of rational argument would convince the opposing position.

So, we're rather glad, and somewhat vindicated, that another and wiser Supreme Court Justice correctly recognizes the proper limits of the judiciary, and basically says same-sex marriage is an issue for the legislature, not the courts. The decision is Seymour v. Holcomb, --- N.Y.S.2d ----, 2005 WL 440509, (N.Y. Sup. Ct., 2005).

According to the Feb. 24, 2005, Ithaca Journal:
Court denies Ithaca same-sex couples

Journal Staff

ITHACA -- Local same-sex couples have lost their first round in a legal battle seeking the right to marry in New York state.

The 25 couples and their attorneys learned Wednesday that State Supreme Court Judge Robert C. Mulvey has rejected their arguments, upholding the state's position and stating that decisions about extending marriage benefits rest with lawmakers, not the courts.

"Social perceptions of same-sex civil contracts may change over time, and every group has the right to persuade its fellow citizens that its view of such matters is the best," Mulvey wrote. "If that day comes, it is within the province of the Legislature to so act."

Read the entire article here.

UPDATE: We finally received a copy of the decision, and in stark cotrast to Judge Doris Ling-Cohan's wandering missive, the opinion of Judge Mulvery is right on the money in applying current constitutional understandings and judical restraint. Some highlights:
The plaintiffs contend that the DRL's limitation of marriage licenses to opposite-sex couples establishes a classification which violates their right to equal protection under Article 1, Section 11 of the New York Constitution. They assert that this classification is based on gender as well as sexual orientation.
* * *
*3 The Court finds that the classification is not based on gender. See, Kane, Samuels and Shields, supra. Men and women enjoy equal rights to obtain a license to marry a person of the opposite sex; neither sex is advantaged or disadvantaged in the consideration of the license application. Each sex is equally prohibited from precisely the same conduct, i.e., marriage to a person of the same sex.

There is no basis in this record for the Court to declare that the plaintiffs are part of a "suspect class" triggering strict scrutiny of the classification.

Therefore the classification must be deemed to be drawn on the basis of sexual orientation. As such it is subject to the rational basis analysis.
* * *
The question presented is whether the plaintiffs have demonstrated that the promotion of opposite-sex marriage is not rationally related to any conceivable legitimate state interest. Although the plaintiffs present cogent arguments that same-sex couples are able to become parents by adoption or assisted-reproduction, they have not established that the Legislature was irrational in recognizing what is considered a unique and distinct social benefit derived from heterosexual marriage, to wit: natural procreation and child-rearing.
* * *
*5 The Court does not construe the Supreme Court's holding in Loving v. Virginia (388 U.S. 1) as the establishment of a fundamental right to same-sex marriage. There the Court held that a Virginia law forbidding interracial marriages deprived the plaintiffs of their fundamental right to marry, yet its decision was clearly anchored to the concept of marriage as a union involving persons of the opposite sex and clearly based on the invidious racial discrimination behind the law. Standhardt et al v. Superior Court of the State of Arizona, supra, at 283.

Since the classification at issue does not burden a fundamental right, it must be deemed constitutional if it bears a rational relationship to a legitimate governmental interest. As stated above, the classification does bear such relationship.
* * *
The decision to extend any or all of the benefits associated with marriage is a task for the Legislature, not the courts. Social perceptions of same-sex civil contracts may change over time, and every group has the right to persuade its fellow citizens that its view of such matters is the best. Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 603, (Scalia, dissenting)(2003). If that day comes, it is within the province of the Legislature to so act.

Based on the foregoing, the plaintiffs' and municipal defendants' motions for summary judgment are denied and the defendant New York State Department of Health's cross-motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint is granted.

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