New York Judge Holds Marriage Law Unconstitutional Despite Three Previous State Court Opinions Upholding the Laws

Feb 4, 2005

New York, New York - Today, New York state court Judge Doris Ling-Cohan issued a decision declaring New York's marriage laws unconstitutional. Judge Cohan's decision came after three state court judges in New York recently upheld New York's marriage laws as constitutional. Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, and Rena M. Lindevaldsen, Senior Litigation Counsel for Liberty Counsel, represented New York State Senators Diaz and Meier, State Assemblyman Hooker, the New York Family Policy Council and Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long in filing an amicus brief in the New York City case and will represent the same parties in an amicus brief on appeal. Liberty Counsel is a nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious liberties, the sanctity of human life, and the traditional family.

In the past four months, three judges, two in Albany and one in Rockland County, refused to declare the New York marriage laws unconstitutional. Those decisions squarely rejected claims by same-sex couples that marriage laws limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman violate the couples' due process or equal protection rights. As recently as yesterday, a New York state court in Albany upheld the marriage laws. In contrast, today Judge Cohan found the same laws unconstitutional under the New York constitution. Judge Cohan invented a "fundamental right to choose one spouse," wrote that same-sex marriage "would cause harm to no one," that there is "no legitimate purpose, let alone a compelling interest" in the marriage laws, and ordered that "husband," "wife," "groom" and "bride" should now be construed as "spouse." Judge Cohan said that such remedy was legislating from the bench. The decision has been stayed for 30 days to allow the city to determine whether it would appeal. A city attorney told the press today that the city was "still considering its options." Liberty Counsel initially sought to intervene to obtain full party status to defend this case by arguing that neither the city nor the state attorneys were dedicated to aggressively defend this case. Judge Cohan denied intervention but granted Liberty Counsel the right to file an amicus brief.

Mat Staver commented, "We are disappointed in today's decision. Three other Supreme Court judges in New York have independently reviewed the laws and concluded, as they should, that the marriage laws are constitutional. The State has an obvious interest in preserving traditional marriage and in promoting the best family arrangement - one with a mom and a dad - for our children and society. Today's decision demonstrates the need for marriage amendments at the state and federal level. All it takes is one judge to throw the State's marriage laws into upheaval. Judges should not be able to pull same-sex marriage out of a hat and force it on the American people. Marriage is a fundamental basis of our society and we must do all that it takes to stabilize and preserve it. The people must have a voice in this most important social issue."

Read the Opinion in this case (in PDF format - to open, download free Adobe Reader)