The US gay marriage cause has suffered its most serious setbacks in months, with New York’s highest court rejecting same-sex unions and the only state where gay marriage is legal gaining preliminary approval for a rights rollback.

In a 4-2 decision, the New York Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday last week that banning same-sex couples from marrying did not contravene the state’s constitution.

The court was considering four separate lawsuits brought by 44 New York same-sex couples. They argued they had a constitutional right to wed, The New York Times reported.

The majority Court of Appeals decision accepted the argument that restricting marriage to heterosexual partners was in the best interests of children.

Intuition and experience suggest that a child benefits from having before his or her eyes, every day, living models of what both a man and a woman are like, the majority decision said.

The ruling drew an angry response from gay activists, who accused the court of ignorance.

The court’s archaic reasoning is rooted in ignorance and completely contradicted by the facts of today, Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said.

The court threw the expert advice of child welfare professionals and years of scientific evidence out the window with its ruling against fairness.

The Court of Appeals said changing the definition of marriage was an issue for New York’s legislature.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is reportedly planning to lobby politicians to amend the law, despite appealing against one of the four New York gay marriage cases after it won in a lower court in 2005.

The New York setback came as Georgia’s Supreme Court ruled a state ban on gay marriage was legal.

Also this week, a court in Massachusetts -“ the only US state where gay marriage is legal -“ ruled a planned constitutional amendment to block same-sex unions could be voted on in 2008.

The proposed amendment still needs legislative approval to go on the 2008 state ballot, Associated Press reported.

But conservatives welcomed the supreme court ruling as the first step to rolling back gay marriage in the state.

Meantime, an appeals court in California is considering same-sex marriage ahead of a Supreme Court case on the issue expected later in the year.

A lower court last year ruled California’s gay marriage ban was unconstitutional.

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