Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples get another boost in New York

Last week a mid-level court in New York wiped a lower court decision off the books saying that Bradley Davis was not entitled to spousal health insurance benefits even though he and his spouse, Duke Funderburke, were lawfully married in Canada.

Funderburke had asked that his retirement benefits from Uniondale School District in Nassau County be extended to Davis and he was refused. He filed a lawsuit and a trial court ruled in favor of the school district. However at the time of Funderburke’s appeal of this decision, the Pride Agenda was successful in getting the New York State Department of Civil Service to extend partner benefits to state and local employees legally married to a same-sex spouse. Funderburke and all other employees of the Uniondale School District receive their benefits though the Department of Civil Service’s health plan so despite the ruling against Funderburke, his spouse became eligible for health insurance coverage.

This positive change in providing employee benefits made Funderburke’s case moot. Unfortunately, the court decision sat there as a negative precedent. Last week’s decision to wipe Funderburke off the books is a good one because now it no longer exists and makes it impossible for opponents to use Funderburke as legal justification for any future actions they might take in this area.

Funderburke was one of five cases moving through New York’s court system addressing the issue of out-of-state marriage of same-sex couples. With Funderburke gone, the number goes down to four.

The binding decision right now on the issue of out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples remains the appellate level 5-0 Martinez decision out of Monroe County saying these marriages are legal. The remaining three cases have all had favorable lower court decisions.

Our thanks go to Lambda Legal for cleaning this up and for all the work they do with our state’s judicial system making sure our marriages from places like Canada carry the same clout here in New York as anyone else’s out-of-state marriage.

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