Tens of thousands of gay and lesbian couples who live in New York City are one step closer to walking down the aisle—with a marriage license in their hands.
Today, a New York trial judge handed down an unprecedented ruling that says the state must grant gay and lesbian couples the right to marriage. The court’s decision, stemming from a case filed by Lambda Legal, a national LGBT civil rights organization, on behalf of five plaintiff couples, says that the state’s constitution guarantees gay men and lesbians the same basic freedoms available to straight couples.
“When a trial judge rules in our favor, it confirms that there may be a new course of action than we’ve seen in the past,” says David Buckel, a Lambda attorney who argued the case and heads its marriage project. Several same-sex marriage cases in New York have lost at the trial level and are now pending on appeal. The fact that a trial judge has, in his words, “so thoughtfully reviewed the law and come down on the right side” has fostered nothing but jubilation at Lambda’s national headquarters in Manhattan.
But gay and lesbian couples shouldn’t line up outside city hall just yet. The ruling won’t take effect for another 30 days—unless, that is, the city decides to appeal. Michael Cardozo, the city’s attorney, issued this statement: “We are reviewing the decision thoroughly and considering our options.” If the city appeals, the case will proceed to the appellate level, where it will join the other pending same-sex marriage suits.
Buckel is hoping that the tide of change will inspire city officials as well. “The city has a lot of options,” he says. “Hopefully, it will decide to put gay families first.”