NY Gay Marriage Case and Appeal Explained

The same-sex marriage debate erupted in New York City on Friday, as a state judge deemed New York’s marriage laws banning gay marriage unconstitutional. And while the city’s mayor Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said he plans to appeal the decision, the implications of the ruling are staggering: the city may potentially become a San Francisco-equivalent of the East Coast and the state may follow in the direction of Massachusetts, should the appeal fail.

Liberty Counsel the legal group that filed an amicus brief on behalf of the New York City Council for Friday’s case in support of traditional marriage, plans to file a brief for the appeal when it is carried onto the state’s highest court.

The following is the full text of a February 7, 2005 interview with Erik Stanley, chief counsel of the Liberty Counsel.

What are the implications of the appeal?

It’s good that the city appealing especially since three other judges in New York have earlier upheld the same laws as constitutional. This is just one judge and the state has three others who said marriage is between a man and a woman, and it [Judge Ling-Cohan’s decision] needs to be appealed. On appeal, we’re hopeful the state will strenuously argue in favor of traditional marriage.

The Liberty Counsel has already expressed fears that the city would not argue vigorously for the case when it was presented to Judge Ling-Cohan. Do you believe this will also be the case at the appellate court?

This was one of the situations at the trial court level. When we tried to intervene on the grounds that the state will not present a vigorous defense -- and it wasn’t as vigorous as it could’ve been – we were allowed to file an amicus brief. Certainly, the court in New York needs before it a voice of very strong advocacy for traditional marriage, and the Liberty Counsel will present that voice.

Through the amicus briefs?

Yes, through those briefs.

What are the prospects on winning this case?

I think the prospects are fairly good. If anything you can say the New York judges are trending toward denying same-sex marriage, and the chances that the courts will uphold traditional marriage are pretty high.

Should the appeal not succeed, what will be the result? Is it possible for a Massachusetts to occur all over again?

Absolutely. Eventually the four pending cases in the issue of same-sex marriage will make their way up to the state’s highest court, which is the court of appeals. This court then could possibly go in the way of Massachusetts. Now, we are hopeful it will not, but there is no guarantee.

This is precisely one of the reasons why we are pushing so hard for the passage of a Federal Marriage Amendment. Here you have on judge in New York that has thrown all the state laws on marriage into upheaval. We don’t want to have to wake up to the daily news to learn each day about what is happening to our marriage laws in the nation, and we believe this issue must be decided by the people once and for all.

For this one particular ruling on Friday, if the appellate court rules in favor of the decision, would that be enough to legalize gay marriage across the entire state?

Potentially. The appeal from that particular case and the appeals from the three cases where traditional marriage was upheld can and will make their way up. At that point, the high court could decide that same-sex couples would be allowed to marry across the state.

Can you tell me some points Liberty Counsel will present in the brief?

Our argument is that the state does have good and compelling reasons to keep marriage as between one man and one woman only. One of the overriding reasons for this is in regards to the raising of children. Study after study has shown that children do best in a home with both a mom and a dad, and the state has the responsibility to protect that as the best option for the children.

The other argument is that this particular judge in NY did not only broaden the definition the definition of marriage – she completely destroyed it.

Judge Ling-Cohan finds that an individual has a fundamental right to choose whom one marries. If that’s the case, it does not just stop at same-sex couples -- it can form the basis for allowing polygamy and any other relationship anyone can conceive. Her particular view will radically redefine marriage as a whole.

This ruling in relation to Canada. Is there a similar trend between the two nations?

I think so, we are in a battle right now over the institution of marriage in America, and that battle will continue until one side or the other is successful, just like Canada.

I think the strategy [of the gay marriage proponents] is to legalize same-sex marriage in individual states. Then, there will be a conflict since you have a number of states that allow marriage and a number of states that do not. These people will then take the issue up to the Supreme Court to allow it to establish it across the nation, similar to what happened in Canada.

We’ve said this for a long time: the issue of same-sex “marriage” is a national problem that calls for a national solution. That’s why we’ve been pushing for federal marriage amendment.

Is there anything individual Christians can do to help pass the amendment?

Definitely. They need to keep the pressure on Congress and specifically their local senators to pass the federal marriage amendment and to put it through to the state. The US House and Senate passing the amendment is the first step. The second step is for the amendment to go to the states, where the people will be able to decide. So individuals must tell the senators to pass the amendment onto the states so the people’s voice can be heard. It’s clearly a matter of whether the court or the American people can decide as a whole on this issue.

Have you received any information as to when the city plans to appeal and when the case will be heard at the High Court?

No. The state will have to appeal and the court will then establish a briefing schedule. But it won’t be anytime soon, and we’re probably talking about another year or so before it is heard.

So in that window of time, will Judge Ling-Cohan’s decision go into affect and make New York City into another “Mecca” of gay marriage?

It depends. This particular judge has stayed her decision for 30 days, but the appellate court will have to decide whether they want to stay her decision.

One of the worst things that could happen is having same-sex couples marry in one part of New York while other parts of the state prohibit it. At that point, you’ll end up with having news of same-sex couples marrying all over New York City every night – and I don’t think this is a picture we would like to see.

My guess is that the appellate court will place a halt on Judge Ling-Cohan’s decision, at least until the case appears before the High Court.