Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Court ruling upholds NYS Comptroller's decision to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages

Comptroller DiNapoli's office announced today that the New York State Supreme Court (which is not, despite its name, the highest court in New York State) has ruled to uphold the 2004 decision by then Comptroller Alan Hevesi to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in Canada as the same as any other marriage in New York State when it comes to benefits provided through the New York State Retirement System.

It tosses out challenges to recognizing out-of-state marriages based on the Hernandez v. Robles ruling in July 2006, which stated that it was not inherently unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry in New York State. That case discussed only the issuing of marriage licenses in New York and had no bearing on marriages performed legally in other jurisdictions. Therefore, private entities (like businesses) cannot point to the Hernandez case if trying to rationalize denying spousal benefits to gay couples who have gone to Canada, for example, to get married.

It should also be noted that Comptroller Tom DiNapoli went a step further by stating that not only Canadian marriages, but all out-of-state marriages (from states/countries that legally perform same-sex marriages) would be recognized.

Hevesi's decision in 2004 ultimately led to other entities recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages, most notably Mayor Bloomberg's decision (also in 2004) to require New York City's pension fund to recognize these marriages as fully legal and valid.

Hevesi's original decision is based on New York State's comity laws, which holds that couples who are legally married in another jurisdiction shall be treated as any other married couple in New York State. Eliot Spitzer, who was Attorney General at the time, also interpreted the laws to include legally married same-sex couples.

Read the Pride Agenda's press release here.

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