Manhattan D.A. Won't Prosecute Clergy for Gay Marriages
By Nina Pineda
(New York-WABC, March 18, 2004) — Another battle front in the fight for gay marriage -- two
members of the clergy performed same-sex ceremonies on the steps of City Hall.
The minister and the rabbi performed ceremonies for three gay couples outside city hall this
afternoon. Dozens of other clergy members showed up to support the move.
Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau says he will not prosecute couples or those who
perform marriage ceremonies for same sex couples.
Nina Pineda reports from City Hall with more.
The D.A.'s office has been bombarded with inquiries from people who were involved in same-sex
marriages on the steps of New York's City Hall, wondering what's going to happen. The answer is
going to relieve some and anger others. The answer from Morgenthau, at least for now, is nothing.
His hands-off stance surprised many. He issued a statement Thursday afternoon, saying:
"The criminal courts are not the appropriate forum for the resolution of these issues; ultimately
they will be resolved in civil lawsuits ... this office will take no action with respect to the
participants in these ceremonies."
Robert Morgenthau, Manhattan District Att'y
Kevin Cathcart, LAMBDA Legal: "He's an important player in the world of district attorneys, and
what happens in New York City, vis a vis any kind of gay rights issue, is very important for the
rest of the state."
Lawyers for gay rights groups cheered Morgenthau's decision. Because of the respect the D.A.
commands beyond and throughout New York state, they feel there's hope for those facing criminal
charges -- possibly even jail time -- for performing same sex marriages without a marriage license.
New Paltz Mayor Jason West has vowed to continue, with another two dozen marriages this
upcoming weekend, despite 19 criminal counts against him.
Three same-sex couples were married on the steps of City Hall on Thursday.
Members of Clergy, Speaking as a Group: "We agreed to marry couples based on the laws of the
state, in which we live."
Ministers, rabbis, and dozens of other clergy showed their solidarity for same-sex marriages, the
legality of which the Manhattan D.A. will not fight criminally now.
Though the mayor's interpretation is that the "I dos" are "Don'ts" under state law.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg: "The current law does not provide for same-sex marriage, period. And
I think this is more theater than anything else."
Both the mayor and the D.A. agree that this is an issue for the courts to decide, legally and
constitutionally. But it was certainly unsettling for many that religious leaders were beginning to
be prosecuted elsewhere in the state for performing same-sex marriages