Following Braschi, in 2014, the Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges, which the judge said “established same-sex marriage as a constitutional right.”
She took issue with both Braschi and Obergefell for “limit[ing] their holdings to two-person relationships.” Instead, she said, this case “presents the distinct and complex issue of significant multi-person relationships.”
After the Braschi decision, the New York Legislature amended the Rent Stabilization Code and “added evidentiary factors to be considered when determining whether a person has sufficient emotional and financial commitment to the former tenant of record to qualify for non-eviction protections,” the judge wrote.
Those include factors such as the “longevity of the relationship” and the “intermingling of finances,” she wrote. It did not include, she highlighted, “evidence of a sexual relationship between such persons.”
“Why then, except for the very real possibility of implicit majoritarian animus, is the limitation of two persons inserted into the definition of a family-like relationship for the purposes of receiving the same protections from eviction accorded to legally formalized or blood relationships?” she asked. “Is ‘two’ a ‘code word’ for monogamy?”
“Why does a person have to be committed to one other person in only certain prescribed ways in order to enjoy stability in housing after the departure of a loved one?” she added. “Do all nontraditional relationships have to comprise or include only two primary persons?”
“The court recognizes the difficulty and potential implications of not interpreting the Braschi Court’s interpretation of the word ‘family’ as drawing a bright line which must end at what is now considered a traditional dyadic relationship,” she concluded, before again citing Bellacosa’s concurring judgment in Braschi.
“But, ‘[w]e just do not know the answers or implications for an exponential number of varied fact situations, so we should do what courts are in the business of doing — deciding cases as best they fallibly can.’ Accordingly, the court declines to award either party summary judgment.”
The decision cleared the way for O’Neill to make the legal case that he was more than “only a roommate” and a member of a three-person relationship and, therefore, eligible to keep the rent-controlled apartment.
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