updated 7/6/2006 10:17:02 AM ET 2006-07-06T14:17:02

New York’s highest court ruled Thursday that gay marriage is not allowed under state law.

The Court of Appeals in a 4-2 decision rejected arguments from gay and lesbian plaintiffs throughout the state that their inability to get marriage licences in New York violated their constitutional rights.

Judge Robert Smith said New York’s marriage law clearly limits marriage to between a man and a woman and any change in the law should come from the state legislature.

We do not predict what people will think generations from now, but we believe the present generation should have a chance to decide the issue through its elected representatives,” Smith wrote

Governor Pataki’s state Health Department and state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office have argued that New York law prohibits issuing licenses to same-sex couples. The state had prevailed in lower appeals courts.

The judges declined to follow the lead of high court judges in neighboring Massachusetts, who ruled that same-sex couples in that state have the same right to wed as straight couples.

The four cases decided Thursday were filed two years ago when the Massachusetts decision helped usher in a spate of gay marriage controversies from Boston to San Francisco. In New York, the mayor of the Hudson Valley village of New Paltz married about two dozen gay couples in February 2004.

With little hope of getting a gay marriage bill signed into law in Albany, advocates from the ACLU, Lambda Legal and other advocacy groups marshaled forces for a court fight. Forty-four couples acted as plaintiffs in the suits, including the brother of comedian Rosie O’Donnell and his longtime partner.

“It’s a sad day for New York families,” said plaintiff Kathy Burke of Schenectady. “My family deserves the same protections as my next door neighbors.”

Burke and her partner of seven years, Tonja Alvis, are raising her 11-year-old son.

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