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New York, Georgia Courts Disallow Gay Marriage

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

In Georgia and New York today, those states highest courts ruled against gay marriage. The courts in both states found that their marriage laws are constitutional, that marriage is limited to a relationship between a man and a woman.

In New York, the court said that any change in the law should come from the state legislature. The justices there ruled on several suits brought by 44 couples. One of the plaintiffs in the New York suit was Jeanne Vitale. I spoke with her earlier about her response to the ruling.

Ms. JEANNE VITALE (Plaintiff in New York Marriage Suit): To tell you the truth, I started to cry. I was a little disappointed. There's some financial effects, and then there's also just - it's kind of demeaning to be considered basically a second-class citizen. That's how I feel. You know, I pay taxes. I'm a citizen. I'm a grown woman with a partner of 10 years and a 22-month-old child that I've adopted. My partner had the baby. And we're a family with a house, and we're really like a boring couple. And yet, New York state doesn't consider us a family.

BRAND: You said there were financial repercussions. What were those?

Ms. VITALE: Yes, well, like the first thing would be, you know, in terms of second parent adoption - luckily New York state does have that so that if something happened to Jonie(ph), I could make decisions, medical decisions for her, etc. But we had to pay a lawyer a lot of money, and I had to go through the whole process. And, you know, that probably cost about $6,000.

And recently, too, in terms of health insurance, because we're not married, the one company that we could get health insurance from is actually dropping domestic partnership plans for sole proprietors and partners of sole proprietors. Now she's going to be on a family plan, and I'm going to have to get my own health insurance which will probably cost us about $7,200 a year. So if we were considered married or could get married, that's money we could save for college.

BRAND: And what was your argument before the court?

Ms. VITALE: The court originally was saying that part of this is a cultural thing, and our lawyers were saying that, no, just because something is cultural doesn't mean that it's right. They often referred to Loving(ph) versus Texas when blacks and whites weren't allowed to marry and that was considered a cultural argument.

Visitation rights, hospital - there's a couple that have been together 20 years, and one of them got sick and her partner wasn't allowed to go in and visit her when she had a coma because the hospital said she wasn't family. And they raised three kids. As she said, she paid for three weddings, and she's not allowed to dance at her own wedding. So our argument was that there are real fundamental disadvantages by not being allowed to be married.

BRAND: Massachusetts is the only state that allows gay marriage. Would you consider moving there?

Ms. VITALE: My family lives around here. My mother's getting older. I like being close, you know, to my brother and my sister. And we've set down roots here, so I don't think we would go and move there.

BRAND: Well then, if you're going to stay, will you work to change the law?

Ms. VITALE: Yeah. What we're hoping is that the legislature will take this up. It took about 25 years for the legislature to include gays in the non-discrimination laws here. It may be something that will help the next generation, not necessarily us. But I'm hoping that, you know, they will do the right thing.

I'm sorry. I might be rambling. I'm just a little upset, I have to say. I thought it would go this way, but the reality of it is, you know, it actually hurts a little bit, I have to say.

BRAND: Well, thank you very much.

Ms. VITALE: Thank you for talking.

BRAND: Jeanne Vitale was one of the plaintiffs challenging New York's marriage law. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.