Thursday, May 17, 2007

NY Couples Celebrate Gay Marriage Ruling

NY Couples Celebrate Gay Marriage Ruling

The Associated Press
Thursday, May 17, 2007; 7:38 AM

NEW YORK -- Michael Adams and his partner, Fred Davie, waited three years to find out whether their marriage in Massachusetts was legal. On Wednesday, they got an answer: Their wedding rings can stay on.

A judge ruled that marriages of gay couples from New York who wed in Massachusetts before last July are valid because New York had not explicitly banned same-sex marriages until then.

"We've been in limbo," Adams said. "To learn that the marriage we cherish so much is legal, and recognized in Massachusetts and New York _ well, we can't wait to get together to pop open a bottle of champagne."

Massachusetts became the first state in the country to allow gay marriage in May 2004, but couples are barred from marrying in the state if their marriages would be prohibited in their home states.

Adams and Davie, from New York City, wed in Lowell, Mass., in 2004. The New York Court of Appeals ruled on July 6, 2006, that New York law limits marriage to unions between a man and a woman.

The Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders had asked for clarification of the status of New York couples who married in Massachusetts before that ruling.

In a May 10 decision, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Thomas Connolly found that those marriages are legally valid, saying that same-sex marriages became "prohibited" in New York only on July 6, 2006.

"We've come such a long way," said Adams, 45. "We know that we have a legally recognized marriage, and it's going to open up new opportunities for us to be treated fairly, to get benefits we deserve as a couple."

It was unclear exactly how many New York couples married in Massachusetts during the two-year period, but GLAD said it was "in the hundreds." The group had previously said 173 New York couples were affected.

After Massachusetts legalized gay marriage, hundreds of couples from other states went there to get married. But former Gov. Mitt Romney directed municipal clerks not to give licenses to out-of-state couples, citing a 1913 law that bars couples from marrying in Massachusetts if the marriages would be prohibited in their home states.

Eight couples from six states challenged the law.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in March 2006 that Massachusetts could use the 1913 law to bar gay couples from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont from marrying in the state because they had an "express prohibition" against same-sex marriage. The high court said it was unclear whether gay marriage was specifically banned in New York and Rhode Island, and sent that part of the case back to Connolly.

Connolly ruled in September that gay couples from Rhode Island have the right to marry in Massachusetts because gay marriage is not expressly prohibited there.

Gay rights groups praised Connolly's most recent ruling.

But Michael Long, who heads New York's small but politically influential Conservative Party, predicted Connolly's ruling wouldn't hold up in New York.

"It's wishful thinking by some homosexual couples that the interpretation of a particular judge will change their status," Long said. "The law in the state of New York is very clear _ marriage is between a man and a woman."

Long said the issue could wind up back in New York courts if the gay couples affected seek to press for marriage rights in their home state.


Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie in Boston contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Associated Press

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