Empire State Couple Wins Equal State Benefits

October 13, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - In yet another example of the red-hot political feelings surrounding same-sex benefits, a same-sex couple married in Canada have qualified for pension benefits equal to that available to heterosexual married couples.

New York state Comptroller Alan Hevesi made the determination regarding two New York state workers, the Associated Press reported.

Hevesi based his determination on a 1980 ruling by the state’s highest court, coupled with a March 2004 advisory opinion issued by state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. That guidance dictates that validly performed marriages of same-sex couples in Canada must be recognized as valid for retirement benefit purposes in New York, Hevesi announced.

Hevesi is sole trustee of the New York State and Local Retirement System, which covers nearly 1 million current and former government employees in the state.

Hevesi’s ruling came after an inquiry by Mark Daigneault about whether the pension system would extend benefits to same-sex partners. Daigneault is an Albany-area state employee who said he has been with his partner for 13 years and has two children.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Daigneault said, according to the AP story. “I am very excited. It certainly is going to provide more protection for my family and my two children.”

Daigneault said he has not yet gone to Canada to be married. Courts in six Canadian provinces, including Quebec and Ontario, have ruled that denying marriage to same-sex couples violates their rights under the Canadian constitution.