Empire State High Court Throws Out NYC Domestic Partner Statute

February 15, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - New York state's highest court has sided with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in declaring the city's anti-discrimination law unconstitutional because it conflicted with federal benefits laws and state competitive bidding requirements.

In  a 4-3 decision , the New York Court of Appeals upheld a lower appeals court assertion that the state competitive bidding statutes and the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) had to be given deference over the city’s 2004 Equal Benefits Law passed over   Bloomberg’s veto. The mayor eventually carried out the law requiring the city to only do business with companies giving domestic partners of employees the same benefit   level as they do for employee spouses, but only after being ordered to do so by the courts (See  NY Justice to Mayor: Enforce Domestic Partner Benefits Law ).

Writing for the majority in the most recent decision, Appeals Judge Robert Smith ruled that the mayor also had the duty to follow existing state and federal statutes.

“The Mayor does indeed have a duty to implement valid legislation passed by the City Council, whether over his veto or not, but he also has a duty to comply with valid state and federal legislation, including state competitive bidding laws and ERISA,” Smith wrote. “Where a local law seems to the Mayor to conflict with a state or federal one, the Mayor’s obligation is to obey the latter, as the Mayor has done here.”

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the first openly gay person elected as speaker of the City Council, vowed to continue pushing for benefits for domestic partners. “Although we are disappointed with the court’s ruling, we are here today most importantly to make it clear that our efforts to make sure that the equal benefits bill becomes the equal benefits law of the city of New York – those efforts are not over,” she told reporters..

The City of New York currently provides the same benefits to the domestic partners of its employees as it does to employees’ spouses.