New York state court rules in favour of same-sex marriage 1 hour, 59 minutes ago
NEW YORK (AFP) - A New York state court ruled same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, a decision hailed by gay rights groups as a major victory.
Justice Doris Ling-Cohan said preventing gay and lesbian couples from receiving marriage licenses violated basic freedoms guaranteed in the state constitution.
Ling-Cohan was ruling on a lawsuit filed by the gay advocacy group Lambda Legal on behalf of five same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses in New York state.
"That prejudice against gay people may still prevail elsewhere cannot be a legitimate justification for maintaining it in the marriage laws of this state," Ling-Cohan said in her written decision.
While recognising that the ruling may cause "pain" to those whose religious convictions forbid recognition of same-sex marriage, the judge argued that granting same-sex couples the right to marry should not impact on those married under the tenets of their individual faith.
"Moreover, such religious considerations cannot legally be the basis upon which to curtail the constitutional rights of plaintiffs," she added.
Ling-Cohan's order was stayed by 30 days, pending appeal by the New York City authorities, the defendants in the case.
"We are reviewing the decision thoroughly and considering our options," said city attorney Michael Cardozo.
"This is a historic ruling that delivers the state constitution's promise of equality to all New Yorkers," said Susan Sommer, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.
"The court recognised that unless gay people can marry, they are not being treated equally under the law," Sommer said. "Same-sex couples need the protections and security marriage provides, and this ruling says they're entitled to get them the same way straight couples do."
Massachusetts is currently the only US state to recognise gay marriages.
Conservative groups have backed moves to pass both state and federal constitutional amendments effectively banning gay marriage, although a federal amendment failed to pass muster in the US Congress earlier this year.