Shields v. Madigan

Brief Filed: 7/05
Court: New York Appellate Division, Second Department
Year of Decision: 2006

Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 372KB)


Constitutional challenge to New York’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Index Topic

Sexual Orientation (discrimination; same-sex marriage)


Plaintiffs filed suit in Rockland County Supreme Court challenging the denial of marriage licenses as in violation of the New York Constitution. The trial court ruled that 1) as a matter of New York statutory law, the town clerk is not authorized to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and 2) the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples does not violate the New York Constitution. The decision was appealed to the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department.

APA's Position

This case poses fundamentally the same questions as the challenges to same-sex marriage statutes in other cases such as Lewis v. Harris, Li v. Oregon, and Andersen v. King County in which APA filed amicus briefs. Although some details of the legal standards and specific arguments at issue in each of the cases may vary slightly, the psychological issues addressed by APA’s amicus brief are essentially the same.


Three New York State cases (Shields v. Madigan, Samuels v. New York State Department of Health, and Hernandez v. Robles) were consolidated for review and heard by the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, in May 2006. In July 2006, the court rejected the call for same-sex marriage. The New York Court of Appeals, in a 4-2 decision, upheld the New York Domestic Relations Law’s limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples, holding that the New York Constitution does not compel recognition of same-sex marriages. In a strong dissent, Chief Judge Kayne argued that the plurality applied too lenient a standard of review and that, in any event, the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage lacked a rational basis. The plurality, the concurrence, and the dissent all discussed — and at times focused on — issues addressed in the APA’s amicus brief.