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Brooklyn’s Family Court celebrates marriage equality

May 19, 2015 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn’s Family Court celebrated marriage equality at its second annual LGBTQ event. From left: Marc Levine, president of The Alliance — the Gay/Straight Alliance of the New York State courts; Yoruba Richen; Judy Yu; Hon. Jeanette Ruiz; Hon. Amanda White; and Hon. Jacqueline Deane. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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The Kings County Family Court and the New York City Family Court Advisory Council to the Administrative Judge Committee for LGBT Matters hosted its second annual LGBTQ event on marriage equality at the Family Court during a ceremony in Downtown Brooklyn on Monday.

“The Supreme Court landmark decision of U.S. v. Windsor was issued nearly two years ago now,” Hon. Amanda White said in her opening remarks. “It found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.

“Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that the statute is invalid for it has no legitimate purpose and, in fact, disparages and injures those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect,” she continued.

Hayley Gorenberg, the national deputy legal director for Lambda Legal; Julie Fink, who helped represent Edie Windsor in her fight against the Defense of Marriage Act; director and producer Yoruba Richen; and advocate Karess Taylor-Hughes were among those to speak at the event.

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“The history of marriage may be marred by discrimination of all sorts, but it’s also a rich and meaningful history to many, many LGBT people,” Gorenberg said. “People often aspire to marriage as the pinnacle relationship in their lives. It is the way to express the most central and loving partnership. Marriage is a common social currency that is easily understood.”

Fink discussed why her firm took Windsor’s case and talked about how far the country has come in the six short years since.

“Their relationship was exactly what we have all understood the best of marriage to be, and they had been together for over 40 years,” Fink said of Windsor and her late spouse. “I’m looking forward to next month when everybody around the country is able to get married after the U.S. Supreme Court makes its decision.”

Richen discussed her documentary, “The New Black,” which examined the links between the black civil rights movement and the LGBTQ movement.

“I started ‘The New Black’ because of election night in 2008,” Richen said. “In many ways that night seemed like the climax for the civil rights movement. But that same night, California banned gay marriage and a CNN poll — which we now know was incorrect — placed a lot of the blame on black voters.

“It was clear to me that these movements pitted against each other didn’t make sense.”

Finally, Taylor-Hughes, who had to leave early to attend her graduation at Columbia University, talked about her experience advocating for underrepresented communities.

“I realized that there were lots of LGBT organizations that weren’t going into black neighborhoods at all, so I wanted to get involved and do that,” Taylor-Hughes said. “It wasn’t easy, but we have to talk to one another, work with one another and we all need to get involved.”

While it was only the second year the court has held an LGBT-themed event, its popularity is quickly growing as the Queens Family Court held its first LGBT event.

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