Lambda Legal, an organisation committed to achieving full recognition gay civil rights, filed its opening brief in the New York Court of Appeals this week, appealing a December 2005 ruling which said that limiting marriage to people of different sexes is not unconstitutional.

That ruling reversed the trial court decision handed down in February 2005 that found that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

“We knew all along that this issue would have to be decided by the state’s highest court,” said Susan Sommer, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal and lead attorney on the case. “The Court of Appeals is the ultimate guardian of constitutional rights in New York. We hope it will soon end discrimination against same-sex couples who want to marry. For these families, it’s a matter of simple fairness.”

This week’s brief states, in part, that, “This appeal is about far more than abstract legal principles. At heart, it concerns real New York families who share the same love and day-to-day journey together through life that binds married couples.”

The lawsuit seeks marriage for same-sex couples in New York and argues that denying these couples marriage violates the state constitution’s guarantees of equality, liberty and privacy for all New Yorkers. The trial court issued its ruling in the favour of a gay couples in February 2005, and New York City decided to appeal. The mid-level appeals court handed down its decision in the City’s favour in December, and Lambda Legal appealed to the Court of Appeals (New York’s highest court).

Lambda Legal and Empire State Pride Agenda have launched a state wide Marriage Awareness Tour for Equality (MATE). The first MATE event is scheduled for February 12 in Syracuse. MATE events feature a Lambda Legal plaintiff couple from the Hernandez case and Marriage Ambassadors who have been working with Empire State Pride Agenda.

This Sunday, Daniel Hernandez and Nevin Cohen, together with Marriage Ambassadors, will address a church audience explaining the harms caused by excluding same-sex couples from marriage. More MATE events are scheduled throughout the state in the weeks and months ahead.

In addition to Hernandez v. Robles, Lambda Legal has filed similar cases seeking marriage for same-sex couples in California (with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the ACLU), Washington (with the Northwest Women’s Law Center), New Jersey and Iowa. A decision from the Washington Supreme Court in the Andersen v. King County case is imminent, and oral arguments for the New Jersey case will take place on February 15.

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