In a decision that embraced the same arguments that were rejected by the Constitutional Court of South Africa, four members of a five-judge panel of the New York Appellate Division in Manhattan ruled on Dec. 8 that same-sex couples have no right to marry under the state's constitution, Gay City News reported.
The ruling reversed an opinion issued in February by Justice Doris Ling-Cohan that ordered New York City Clerk Victor Robles to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to The New York Times.
Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg directed the city's attorneys to appeal that ruling, contending that although he supported the concept of same-sex marriage, he thought it inappropriate for the city clerk to begin issuing licenses without the approval of the state's highest court.
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund filed the suit on behalf of five same-sex couples in New York City, against Robles.
Justice Milton Williams ( a member of the majority ) focused a significant part of his opinion on the notion that the legislature, and not the courts, is the proper place to determine who has the right to wed, according to Gay City News. He also found that the traditional definition of marriage is based on
'innate, complementary, procreative roles— a function of biology, not mere legal rights.'
Williams also wrote that ' [ m ] arriage laws are not primarily about adult needs for official recognition and support, but about the well-being of children and society, and such preference constitutes a rational policy decision.'
Gay City News noted that Williams based his policy analysis on dissenting opinions in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health ( the Massachusetts marriage case ) . However, that conclusion is contradicted by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's dissenting opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, where he argues that these arguments to exclude same-sex couples from marriage are not substantial.
Several proponents of same-sex marriage expressed their dismay with this latest legal development. Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, said in a statement he was not surprised by the ruling, although he was disappointed since the state constitution guarantees equal treatment for all of its residents. The New York Times reported that Daniel Hernandez, the lead plaintiff along with his partner, Nevin Cohen, said that he was also 'incredibly disappointed' by the ruling.
It is expected that the case will end up in the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals. Lambda Legal quickly announced that it would seek to appeal the latest ruling. In a press release, lead attorney Susan Sommer said that ' [ w ] hile we believe the trial court got it right, we anticipated that this case would be heard before the state's high court. This is a question of basic constitutional rights for same-sex couples and their families, and history shows that fairness under the law will eventually prevail.'
In a surprising twist, Bloomberg announced after the latest ruling that he will fight for the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry, according to 365gay.com . In a statement, the mayor said that if the Court of Appeals affirms the most recent decision, he would urge the legislature to change the statute to allow gay marriage.
However, several gay-rights groups dismissed Bloomberg's statement, noting that it is the mayor's office that is fighting the original Manhattan decision that would have allowed same-sex marriage.