Liberty group argues for gay marriage rights

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The American Civil Liberties Union has asked New York’s highest court to strike down a New York law that bars lesbian and gay couples and their families from the protections of marriage.

“My partner Heather was grilled by hospital staff over and over about who she was and why she was there when I was in the hospital for breast cancer surgery. We never would have had to go through such an ordeal if we were only able to be married,” said Carol Snyder, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“We’re grateful that our case has finally made its way to the Court of Appeals, and hope the court will recognize how badly families like ours get hurt when we’re denied the protections of marriage.” Snyder and her partner Heather McDonnell live in White Plains and have been together for more than 15 years.

The brief was filed in the New York Court of Appeals on behalf of same-sex couples from throughout the state. The ACLU brought the lawsuit with the New York Civil Liberties Union and the law firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton Garrison LLP. According to the ACLU, New York’s law banning gay people from marriage violates the equal protection, due process, and free expression provisions of the New York constitution.

“We’ve known all along that it would ultimately be up to New York’s high court to end the unfairness that lesbian and gay couples face because they are unable to secure marriage protections for their families,” said James Esseks, Litigation Director for the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “Same-sex couples who commit to each other and raise families together shouldn’t be treated as legal strangers.”

The ACLU’s case, Samuels and Gallagher v. New York Department of Health, will likely be argued at the same time the court hears arguments in a case brought by Lambda Legal also seeking marriage for same-sex couples. The court has not set a date for the arguments.

“New York has a long and rich history of recognizing the importance of treating all people fairly. We are hopeful that the Court of Appeals will vindicate that legacy, by making sure that lesbian and gay couples and their families in this State are no longer shut out of the protections of marriage,” said Roberta Kaplan of Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton Garrison LLP.

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