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State Appeals Court Reverses Ruling Allowing Gay Marriage in New York

A state appeals court overruled a lower court on Thursday that would have permitted same-sex marriages in New York, by saying that it is not the role of judges to redefine the terms "husband" and "
( [email protected] ) Dec 09, 2005 04:30 PM EST

A state appeals court overruled a lower court on Thursday that would have permitted same-sex marriages in New York, by saying that it is not the role of judges to redefine the terms "husband" and "wife."

In a 4-1 vote, the state Supreme Court's Appellate Division overruled Justice Doris Ling-Cohan's ruling in February that the state's domestic relations law is unconstitutional since it does not permit marriage between people of the same sex.

In response to this, the appeals court said, "We find it even more troubling that the court, upon determining the statute to be unconstitutional, proceeded to rewrite it and purportedly create a new constitutional right," according to the Associated Press.

The case was brought forward by a gay and lesbian rights group, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, on behalf of five same-sex couples in New York City against the city clerk, Victor L. Robles, who denied them a marriage license application. The same-sex couples alleged that their rights under the New York Constitution were violated.

In the first ruling of its kind, Ling-Cohan ruled in favor of the five same-sex couples, barring the city clerk from denying them marriage licenses. In her ruling, she said that the term "husband," "wife," "groom" and "bride" in the domestic relations law, should be defined to apply equally to men and women.

However, the appeals court found that this "was an act that exceeded the court's constitutional mandate and usurped that of the Legislature." The court said it is not up to judges to redefine terms that are given clear meaning in a statute, AP reported.

The definition of marriage now enshrined in state law, "expresses an important, recognized public policy supporting, among other things, procreation, child welfare and social stability -- all legitimate state interest," the appellate majority said according to the New York Times.