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Two states say 'no' to gay marriage

New York's highest court says a constitutional right to marry does not exist. Georgia's upholds a constitutional ban.

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In a single day, two state high courts have ruled that same-sex marriage is not permitted in their jurisdictions.

Thursday, both the Court of Appeals in New York and the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that marriage in those states will continue to be defined as between a man and a woman. In the case of New York, any changes will have to be made by the legislature. And, the court denied that the state's 97-year-old definition of marriage violated the constitutional rights of same-sex couples.

"New York's decision is a fairly narrow view of what guarantees the state constitution provides," says Jay Weiser, a law professor at Baruch University and the lead counsel in writing a brief in support of gay marriage for the New York City Bar Association.

New York and Georgia join Arizona and Indiana high courts, which have also said there is no constitutional right to gay marriages. So far, only the Massachusetts high court has ruled in favor of full same-sex marriage rights. Vermont permits equal marriage rights under civil unions.

"So far, the courts are mixed but the majority of cases have passed defense of marriage or constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriages," says Mr. Weiser.

The issue is likely to get embroiled in state politics. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) has said he would lobby the legislature for gay-marriage rights if the court ruled as it has. State Senate majority leader Joe Bruno (R) has indicated he's not opposed to civil unions.

The issue might also become a feature this fall in the gubernatorial race. Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the Democratic candidate for governor, has said he is in favor of gay marriages while his Republican opponent, John Faso, is opposed.

Gay groups promised the decision would be a catalyst for more activity.

The Empire State Pride Agenda, a statewide gay-rights organization, was set to hold rallies across the state Thursday night to protest the court's decision. Alan Van Capelle, the group's executive director, said although disappointed, he was not entirely surprised by the ruling.

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