Same-Sex Directive Upheld in NY State Supreme Court

Acting Justice Lucy Billings of Bronx Supreme Court issued a ruling today that Gov. David Paterson’s directive to state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries is legal in New York. The court ruled that to “recognize same-sex marriages legally solemnized in other jurisdictions is consistent with New York’s common law, statutory law, and constitutional separation of powers.”

The Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a conservative Christian non-profit organization with the stated goal of “defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation” filed an Article 78 Petition on behalf of Sen. Marty Golden (R-Brooklyn), Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Queens) and Assembly Republican Minority Leader James Tedisco (R-Schenectady). Alleging that Paterson overstepped his authority because New York law does not allow for same-sex marriages, the suit claimed that the issue is for the NY State Legislature. In 2006, the NY Court of Appeals ruled in Hernandez v. Robles, 7 N.Y.3d 338, 855 N.E.2d 1, 821 N.Y.S.2d 770, that New York law does not permit same-sex marriage and that there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Other plaintiffs included Conservative Party chairman Michael Long and Duane Motley of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms which claims to be New York State’s only full time Christian Lobby Organization.

On May 14 of this year, Gov. Paterson issued the directive to state agencies to allow for gay married couples to have access to the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples based on a ruling in Martinez v. County of Monroe, 50 A.D.3d 189, 850 N.Y.S.2d 740 (4th Dept. 2008). That case involved a Monroe County couple, one of whom sued Monroe Community College after the school refused to provide health insurance for her partner whom she married legally in Canada. The court ruled the plaintiff had to be awarded health insurance by the college because of the state’s policy of recognizing marriages performed elsewhere.

The ADF and the Governor’s office had no immediate response to the ruling. A list of New York State statutes and regulations that use the terms “spouse,” “husband” and “wife” was prepared by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and the Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation in 1,324 Reasons for Marriage Equality in New York State.