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Vigil Planned on Eve of High Court Hearing on Gay Marriage in New York

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – It's one of the most contentious issues to reach the state Court of Appeals in years. Wednesday, the seven-member high court will hear oral arguments from attorneys representing gay and lesbian plaintiffs in support of gay marriage.

Gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts. Vermont is the only state to recognize so-called "civil unions," which offer gay and lesbian partners the same protections that married people receive. But in New York, Lynn Tranchell of Buffalo says she and her partner are denied the legal rights of a married couple.

"We own a house together. If something should happen to one of us, it's unclear, without the legal definition of marriage, what would happen to our assets," Tranchell said.

That means Tranchell will be watching, with interest, what happens Wednesday. Lower and mid-level courts in New York have ruled that current state law does not provide for gay marriage. Gays and lesbians who have been denied marriage licenses are taking their case to the high court. They say the ban on gay marriage violates their constitutional guarantee of equal treatment under the law. Tranchell says simply adding more legal protections for gay and lesbian couples is not the answer.

"There are more than 1,100 protections at the federal level. At the state level, there are 700," Tranchell said. "Why recreate what already exists in a marriage contract."

Tranchell says gay and lesbians hope the Court of Appeals will chart a new legal course in New York that will allow them to marry. But religious leaders in the state continue to argue that marriage is between a man and a woman. But not all. Buffalo's Unitarian Universalist Church will be the setting of a community gathering at 7pm Wednesday in support of marriage equality.