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New York, Georgia Courts Deal Setbacks to Gay Marriage

The New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, turned back an attempt to give homosexual couples equal treatment under the state’s marriage law. The court upheld the gay marriage ban saying that the state constitution “does not compel recognition of marriages between members of the same sex.”

The ruling favored lawyers from New York City and New York state who argued there was a rational basis to not allow gay marriage. The lawyers argued that limiting marriage to a union between one man and one woman promotes the stability of the family as a child-rearing institution.

In an unusual result, four judges upheld the marriage ban, including one issuing a separate but concurring opinion, and two judges opposed.

The verdict left open the possibility that the New York Legislature could choose to recognize gay marriage.

“We hold that the New York Constitution does not compel recognition of marriage between members of the same sex,” Judge Robert Smith wrote in the decision. “Whether such marriages should be recognized is a question to be addressed by the legislature.”

Just hours after the New York verdict, the Supreme Court of Georgia reinstated the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. The court voted unanimously that the ban did not violate a single-subject rule for ballot measures, reversing a lower court’s ruling. The ban had been approved by 76 percent of voters in 2004.

The Georgia lawsuit had argued that the ballot wording was misleading because it addressed more than one issue. The ballot asked constituents to decide on allowing same sex marriage and civil unions. Superior Judge Constance Russell ruled that these were separate issues, and voters could have different opinions on them.

Georgia officials disputed that people knew what they were voting for when they overwhelmingly approved the ban.

The gay marriage debate appears like it will be an important issue for the 2006 elections. Similar court cases are pending in California, New Jersey and Washington.

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