The American Bar Association (ABA), the largest association of lawyers in the country, has backed a resolution calling for the elimination of legal barriers to same-sex marriages.
"The American Bar Association urges state, territorial, and tribal governments to eliminate all of their legal barriers to civil marriage between two persons of the same sex who are otherwise eligible to marry," reads resolution 111, which was adopted on Wednesday at the ABA's annual meeting in San Francisco.
According to New York State Bar Association President Stephen P. Younger, the resolution passed overwhelmingly with only vote made against the measure.
"The historic action taken today represents another promising step on the path toward equal rights for same-sex couples," said Younger, whose group was a lead sponsor of the resolution.
"I want to commend the members of the American Bar Association's House of Delegates for working with the New York State Bar Association and other bar associations to help in the effort to end this injustice against lesbian and gay people and their families," he added.
Jennifer C. Pizer, National Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal, also praised the ABA for a "timely, important" vote, which she said recognizes not only "the basic humanity of the ABA's lesbian and gay members, but of hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian couples and their families nationwide."
"With today's resolution, the ABA has added its informed and nationally influential voice to a growing chorus calling for an end to ignorance and discrimination," Pizer said.
Meanwhile, Christian legal group the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has criticized the ABA for claiming that it speaks for all American lawyers, when it fact it only represents about 25 percent of them.
"The fact that ADF and other lawyers disagree with the ABA on a number of controversial issues demonstrates the gross inaccuracy of ABA's claim that it speaks for the U.S. legal profession," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Doug Napier, who resigned from the ABA because of its political stands.
Napier said that his firm, along with the National Lawyers Association, is asking its members to protest the ABA's decision and to petition the group to refrain from entering the political arena.
The ABA's vote comes just days after U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco overturned California's controversial ban on same-sex marriages.
While many consider the ruling a milestone achievement in realizing equal rights for homosexuals, same-sex couples are still prevented from legally marrying in California due to a temporary stay Walker placed on the ruling.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who previously vetoed legislation that would have legalized gay marriage in the state, and Attorney General Jerry Brown have urged Walker to lift the stay.