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Kramer Levin helped achieve a potentially historic victory for civil rights in New York State when Justice Doris Ling-Cohan of New York County Supreme Court ruled in Hernandez v. Robles that the right to participate in civil marriage cannot constitutionally be denied to same-sex couples. The court found that the five plaintiff couples, who represent a broad ethnic and economic cross-section of New York families, were unnecessarily harmed by being excluded from this fundamental civil institution and that barring them from marrying violated their rights to liberty and equal protection under the New York State Constitution.
The court recognized a strong parallel to the irrational restrictions on interracial marriage that survived into the 1960's and concluded: "Similar to opposite sex couples, same-sex couples are entitled to the same fundamental right to follow their hearts and publicly commit to a lifetime partnership with the person of their choosing. The recognition that this fundamental right applies equally to same-sex couples cannot legitimately be said to harm anyone."
The case was brought by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the nation's oldest and largest organization devoted to advancing the rights of lesbians and gay men, with Kramer Levin as co-counsel. The Kramer Levin team is led by Jeffrey S. Trachtman and Norman C. Simon, who assisted Lambda Legal on several earlier landmark cases, including Lawrence v. Texas. The core litigation team also includes Tricia Seith, Aaron Frankel, and Michael Sternhell, who worked with the plaintiffs and their relatives to prepare affidavits that demonstrated the impact of the marriage ban on real families, and other important contributions to the case have been made by Eric Tirschwell, Owen Glist, Kerri Ann Law, Jeffrey Ourvan, Jen Rochon, Patricia Ronan, Eric Shimanoff, Paul Schoeman, Steve Sparling, Joel Taylor, and Jen Brevaire.
Kramer Levin will continue to work alongside Lambda Legal to defend this decision on appeal.