Sunday, February 06, 2005

summary judgment

Judge Doris Ling-Cohan of a New York Supreme Court (unlike the US Supreme Court, the New York Supreme Court is a lower-level court; the NY Court of Appeals is the court that has the last word in NY) ruled on summary judgment that the state of New York must begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.

Being as Kent's a lawyer and reads & writes about court decisions as part of his job I asked him how significant he thought it was that the judge ruled on summary judgment. Kent shrugged. "You have a trial when the facts are disputed."

In her opinion Judge Ling-Cohan says, "Defendant [the City Clerk of New York] does not dispute that plaintiffs [the same sex couples currently suing to be allowed to marry] are serious, committed couples, devoted to building lives together as families, whose relationships are no different from those of married couples. In fact, [the city clerk] acknowledges that same-sex couples can establish committed, loving relationships and can be fine parents. Since both sides agree that there are no material facts in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate."

Further the judge finds, "[The city clerk] does not dispute that plaintiffs and their children suffer serious burdens by being excluded from civil marriage. Marriage provides an extensive legal structure that protects the couple and any children." She goes on to list several of these, including joint income tax filing, joint property ownership, collecting on life insurance, presumed relation to children, inheritance, etc. I downloaded the pdf of the decision. The pdf is available at the Lambda Legal site.

The judge stayed her order for 30 days. Even if there had been no appeal (and the mayor of New York City has already appealed) there weren't going to be any gay marriages right away. Some surprise. Anyway, Kent seems not to find the summary judgment aspect particularly significant, at least as regards the eventual outcome. At this point it's this judge's opinion and nothing has changed really, not for anyone who wants to get married.

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