Despite Governor Paterson’s support – the New York State Senate denied marriage equality with a vote of 24 to 38.
Statement of Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director, Family Equality Council:
“There are over 45,000 thousand lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families in New York, over a quarter of which are raising thousands of children. The children in LGBT families need and deserve the legal protection and recognition that full marriage equality provides. Every day that LGBT families in New York struggle to support, protect, and provide for one another due to the lack of legal family recognition is a day too many, and Family Equality Council will push on alongside our New York families until the days of partial rights and inequality are a relic of the past.
“While this is a disappointing result, Family Equality Council will continue to fight for full equality until it is achieved in New York and across the U.S. This includes not taking our eyes off New Jersey, where Governor Corzine has promised to sign a marriage equality bill if it reaches his desk before the end of his term.”
Family Equality Council is the leading LGBT family advocacy organization and is a proud partner of Empire State Pride Agenda and Marriage Equality New York.
New York High Court Unanimously Rejects Challenge to Marriage Equality
New York State’s highest court rejected unanimously a challenge by opponents of same-sex marriage to policies that recognize such unions performed in other states.
In their majority ruling, four of the seven members of the court said they were making their decision on narrow grounds involving the specifics of each case, and not settling the broader question of whether same-sex marriages performed in other states should be recognized. Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr., writing for the majority, expressed “hope that the Legislature will address this controversy.”
But in a concurring decision, three of the justices, said that the court should have addressed the wider issue because New York law already allows for the recognition of marriages that are considered legal elsewhere.
The ruling leaves open the possibility there could be future challenges on the issue in New York.
New York Top Court to Consider Gay Marriage Benefits
New York’s top court is set to hear arguments against providing government benefits to same sex couples married in Canada or other jurisdictions where such marriages are legal.
The state Department of Civil Service extended health insurance benefits to those spouses of state and local government workers in 2007. A year earlier, Westchester County agencies granted similar recognition and benefits.
The Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Tuesday by the Alliance Defense Fund of Scottsdale, Ariz., contending those benefits are unlawful in New York, which does not permit same-sex marriages.
Lower courts upheld the benefits, saying New York generally recognizes marriages from elsewhere unless specifically prohibited or found abhorrent to public policy.
New York Court to Approve State Recognition of Out-of-State Marriages for Same-Sex Couples
The New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, Third Department has upheld a lower court’s ruling that the New York State Department of Civil Service (DCS), a state agency, acted in compliance with the law when it confirmed that it would recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples. This was the first Appellate Court ruling in New York to address the Paterson administration’s recognition of these marriages.
According to Lambda Legal, “Once an out-of-state same-sex marriage is recognized in New York,…each of its parties would be ‘a party to a marriage,’ and, thus, a ‘legal spouse’ who would be entitled to the benefits, rights and obligations of that status,” the three-judge majority opinion held. The other two panel judges filed a concurring opinion.
“Today the Appellate Court confirmed that New York’s state government follows the law by respecting out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples,” said Susan Sommer, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal. “The Court has upheld important spousal health coverage for government employees in the process.”
In May 2007, DCS issued a memo recognizing, as spouses, same-sex couples married in other states or jurisdictions for purposes of extending spousal health insurance coverage to public employees in participating government insurance plans. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), on behalf of four New York taxpayer plaintiffs, challenged DCS’s authority to respect valid out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples and to treat those couples fairly in administering state benefits. In March of 2008, the Supreme Court, Albany County, issued a decision that the DCS was following the law in applying New York’s marriage recognition rule to these marriages. ADF opposed the decision in an appeal filed in 2008.
Lambda Legal argued before the court in October 2008 on behalf of Defendant-Intervenors-Respondents Peri Rainbow and Tamela Sloan, long-time public employees who are raising a special needs child adopted from foster care. The couple depends on the government protections that come from respect for their marriage, and today’s decision validated the lower court ruling that marriages such as theirs are lawfully respected in New York state.
The Court’s decision is consistent with other marriage recognition victories in New York courts, as well as Governor Paterson’s May 2008 directive instructing all state agencies to respect out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples. In September 2008, the New York Supreme Court (Bronx trial court) dismissed a lawsuit against Governor Paterson challenging this directive and again granted Lambda Legal’s motion to intervene in the case on behalf of Rainbow and Sloan.
In February 2008, in Martinez v. County of Monroe, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department in Rochester, also upheld application of the marriage recognition rule to valid out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples. The decision, issued in response to a challenge brought by the NYCLU on behalf of a lesbian couple, is consistent with longstanding marriage recognition in New York.
In early 2009, Lambda Legal applauded a similar decision from the New York Appellate Division, Second Department affirming dismissal of a case brought by the ADF. The court confirmed that Westchester County Executive Spano lawfully recognized out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples, ruling as well in favor of Westchester County couple Michael Sabatino and Robert Voorheis, who had married in Canada and were permitted to intervene as defendants in the case with Lambda Legal as counsel.