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New York court takes up gay marriage

Five couples seek marriages licenses from New York City

From Christopher Browne
CNN

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YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS

New York
Same-sex marriages
Michael R. Bloomberg

NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York's highest court will consider Wednesday whether New York City can grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Attorneys for five New York City couples plan to argue that the New York State Court of Appeals should allow the city to let same-sex couples marry because of the state constitution's guarantee of "equality, liberty and privacy for all New Yorkers."

Only the state of Massachusetts allows couples of the same sex to marry, although Vermont permit civil unions which are the equivalent to marriage in all but name. Thirty-nine states have some sort of ban on gays marrying.

Federal law denies recognition of all same-sex marriages.

The New York City couples were denied marriage licenses in 2004 and quickly took their case to the courts.

Since then, the state's Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer, and city Mayor Michael Bloomberg have expressed support of gay marriage, although both are required to fight the challenges in court because existing law defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

On Sunday, the mayor promised he would work to legalize gay marriages, regardless of the State Court's ruling, and said he is "firmly opposed" to a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages.

"The U.S. Constitution should be something that unites, rather than divides Americans. I do not believe that government should be in the business of telling people who they can and can't marry."

Bloomberg, however, has come under fire from gay rights advocates who wanted him to go ahead and issue marriage licenses to the couples regardless of the court hearings. The mayor of San Francisco did that in 2004 only to have the licenses ruled invalid by the courts.

Bloomberg said he will not issue the licenses unless the court decides in the couples' favor.

"The city cannot go and issue licenses when this is all up in the air," he said while attending a Memorial Day Parade.

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