NY Times, July 6, 2006
N.Y. Court Says Lawmakers Should Consider Gay Marriage
By PATRICK HEALY
The New York Court of Appeals ruled this morning that the state
Constitution does not guarantee a right to marriage for same-sex
couples, and that state lawmakers, not the courts, are better suited
to consider the issue.
In a 4-2 decision that has been eagerly awaited by both sides in the
gay marriage debate, the court, the highest in the state's judiciary
system, concluded that the legislature could have "a rational basis"
for limiting marriage to heterosexual couples, in large part because
of their ability to bear children.
The court did not rule that the state should not or could not allow
gay marriages, only that the state constitution did not require that
it allow them.
The decision called the idea of same-sex marriage "a relatively new
one" and said that for most of history, society has conceived of
marriage exclusively as a bond between a man and a woman. "A court
should not lightly conclude that everyone who held this belief was
irrational, ignorant or bigoted," the decision stated.
"There are at least two grounds that rationally support the limitation
on marriage that the legislature has enacted," the court said, "both
of which are derived from the undisputed assumption that marriage is
important to the welfare of children."
First, the court said, marriage could be preserved as an "inducement"
to heterosexual couples to remain in stable, long-term, and
child-bearing relationships. Second, lawmakers could rationally
conclude that "it is better, other things being equal, for children to
grow up with both a mother and the father."
"Intuition and experience suggest that a child benefits from having
before his or her eyes, every day, living models of what both a man
and a woman are like," the court said.
The court rejected parallels to laws barring interracial marriage, and
the claim that sheer homophobia lay at the root of current law.
"Plaintiffs have not persuaded us that this long-accepted restriction
is a wholly irrational one, based solely on ignorance and prejudice
against homosexuals," the court said.
One state, Massachusetts, currently permits gay marriage.