State and local elected officials offered a range of reactions to the 4-2 ruling by New York’s highest court that it is constitutional to bar gay and lesbian couples from marriage.
“Today’s decision by the Court of Appeals is obviously something that I am very disappointed in and saddened by,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an out lesbian. “The court’s job is to distribute justice and equality to New Yorkers and clearly they failed in their job today.”
Quinn, a Democrat, referring to Judith S. Kaye, the court’s chief judge who wrote the dissent, said, “I know that eventually what Justice Kaye said will be true, people will look back and know that this decision was a mistake. The march for equality is one that will always end in a place of victory.”
Speaking at a press conference with Republican Governor George E. Pataki, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has said he supports gay marriage even as the city fought against it in state courts, was careful in his response.
“The state and city lawyers have long believed that current law on the books in this state does not permit gay marriage and it is constitutional to have a law, the state has a right to set the requirements for marriage,” said Bloomberg, a Republican. “The court ruled exactly that.”
The city, joined by state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the City of Albany, argued against allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed in legal briefs and during oral arguments before the court on May 31. The City of Ithaca, named as a defendant in one of four cases the court considered, declined to defend the marriage law.
Pataki welcomed the decision.
“I think the Court of Appeals made the right decision,” he said.
With the court decision, any effort on same sex marriage moves to the state Legislature.
State Senator Joseph L. Bruno, who leads the Republican majority in that body, reportedly approved of the decision.
Sheldon Silver, who heads the Democratic majority in the Assembly, issued a statement that noted he had not read the decision and would not comment on it.
“The speaker plans to take up the issue of gay marriage with his conference,” a statement from Silver’s press office read. “He thinks it is premature to talk about the issue without first discussing it with members of the Assembly.”
The future of any marriage legislation in the state Legislature is murky with estimates of when any vote in either house will take place ranging from two years to many years.
Speaking at a press conference the day the decision was made public, Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, the statewide gay lobbying group, said a vote in the Assembly could happen soon.
“It can happen next year or the year afterwards if we work hard enough,” he said. Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a Democrat and an out lesbian, was less hopeful.
“It is difficult to imagine the state Legislature moving in an appropriate or positive fashion any time soon,” she said.
Spitzer, who has also backed gay marriage and said he will introduce a bill to advance it if he is elected governor in November, could prove to be a valuable ally for gay marriage proponents.
Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, a gay Democrat and one of the marriage plaintiffs, was less sanguine.
“If the Pride Agenda is that optimistic they must know something about Eliot Spitzer that I don’t,” he said.