In a victory for lesbian and gay rights activists, a New York State Supreme Court ruled on Friday that same-sex couples cannot be denied a marriage license, as the state constitution guarantees that all citizens must be receive equal treatment, including equal access to marriage. Justice Doris Ling-Cohan ruled that the section of New York law forbidding same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, reports the Associated Press, and that gender-specific words and pronouns contained in the Domestic Relations Law “shall be construed to apply equally to either men or women.” In the 62-page decision, Ling-Cohan compared bans on same-sex marriage to now overturned anti-miscegenation laws that banned interracial marriage.
The case was brought by five couples who were represented by Lambda Legal, a national gay rights organization. Susan Sommer, the lead attorney on the case, said that the ruling “delivers the state Constitution’s promise of equality to all New Yorkers,” the AP reports. In the ruling, Ling-Cohan said that the plaintiffs must be awarded marriage licenses.
“For the first time, our family is being treated with respect and dignity that our friends, coworkers, and neighbors automatically have,” Jo-Ann Shain told The Advocate. Shain and her partner of 23 years, Mary Jo Kennedy, are one of the five couples named as plaintiffs in the case. “We need these protections to take responsibility for each other and for our daughter.”
According to the Village Voice, the ruling will not take effect for 30 days, allowing New York City to appeal the decision. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, preparing for re-election, has announced that the city will indeed appeal the ruling, while still pledging his support for gay marriage, according to the New York Times. If the ruling is upheld in appellate court, New York will become the second state to legalize gay marriage, as Massachusetts did in 2004.