Friday, February 04, 2005

So What Are We, the Gay-Marriage Medina? 

The good news has already been reported by Atrios and probably does not need repeating here, but it would be rude of us not to mention today's court ruling that a New York state law banning gay marriage is unconstitutional. (You will not be disappointed to learn that the judge's decision, as a small bonus, puts Mayor Bloomberg squarely in the political crosshairs):
The ruling, by Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, was the first on the state level to side with proponents of gay marriage. In her 62-page decision, she wrote that the state's Domestic Relations Law, which dates to 1909 and limits marriage to unions between opposite-sex couples, deprived gay couples of equal protection and due process rights under the state Constitution.

She likened the law to those that once barred interracial marriages and said that words currently used in defining legal marriages - husband and wife, groom and bride - "shall be construed to apply equally to either men or women" . . . .

[L]egal experts say that, according to the ruling, if the city does not appeal within 30 days, the city clerk's office would be required to issue a license to any gay couple that applies, something gay couples across the city and state have been seeking for years. And in her ruling, Justice Ling-Cohan all but ordered the city clerk to do so.

"It's about time it came about," said Bettina D. Hindin, an expert in matrimonial law at the Manhattan-based firm Slade & Newman. "It knocks the stuffing out of anyone who would say that couples should not marry because of some draconian law from the early 20th century."

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a Republican, stayed silent on the issue yesterday. In the past, Mr. Bloomberg has supported overhauling state law to allow gay marriage. He is likely to be all the more sensitive now, as he seeks re-election in a city with a powerful gay vote.

Mr. Bloomberg's political rivals wasted no time in expressing their opinions. Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president, and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, both Democrats, put out statements last night calling upon the mayor to support the decision. At the same time, the mayor is also facing two potential Republican primary challengers who would surely use his support for the ruling against him with more conservative voters.

One city official said yesterday that the decision on whether to appeal yesterday's ruling might depend in part on whether city lawyers concluded that they were professionally bound to challenge a decision that set a different standard for New York City than for other counties. [N.B.: Ling-Cohan's ruling applies only to NYC -- S.]

To forgo an appeal could, at least temporarily, "turn New York City into a gay marriage Mecca," said one city official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Enjoy that title while you can, New Yorkers, because we San Franciscans are hoping to reclaim it before long.

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