NY Court Rules to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages from Out-of-state

February 4, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A New York appellate court has decided that same-sex marriages validly performed out-of-state must be legally recognized, just as the law recognizes those of heterosexual couples married elsewhere.

“The Legislature may decide to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages solemnized abroad,” a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled, according to the New York Times. “Until it does so, however, such marriages are entitled to recognition in New York.”

In unamimously rejecting a 2006 lower court decision, the appellate court held that a gay couple’s 2004 marriage in Canada must be recognized under the state’s “marriage recognition rule,” and that an employer’s denial of health benefits discriminated against the couple on the basis of their sexual orientation, the New York Times reported.Lawyers for both sides said the ruling applied to all public and private employers in the state.

The case before the court involved Patricia Martinez, a word processing supervisor at Monroe Community College who married her partner, Lisa Ann Golden, in Ontario on July 5, 2004. A few days later, Martinez applied for health care benefits for her spouse, and the request was denied in November 2004 by the college’s director of human resources, who said the state did not recognize the marriage as a matter of law and public policy.

The court said Monroe Community College had begun in 2006 extending health-care benefits to Golden under a new contract provision, but the plaintiff was entitled to unspecified monetary damages for the period during which the benefits were wrongly denied, according to the news report.


The marriages of thousands of gay couples entered into outside the state have been recognized in recent years by many state and local agencies and by private employers for purposes of allowing health and life insurance coverage, child care, and other benefits, but others have resisted doing so pending the outcome of numerous cases in the courts.

Under a law passed in 2002, New York City provides all city benefits and services to same-sex couples whose unions are recognized by other jurisdictions, but it has no power to impose the same rules on private companies. Last September, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced that the policy giving benefits to same-sex partners of government workers married in Canada had been expanded for those enrolled in the New York State and Local Retirement System to those married anywhere allowing the unions (See NY Expands Same-Sex Benefits Policy ).

In 2004, the New York City Council adopted legislation sponsored by Council speaker Christine C. Quinn, the first openly gay leader of the Council, that would have required large companies doing business with the city to provide equal job benefits to domestic partners. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg vetoed the bill, saying it violated state and federal laws and would be costly for taxpayers. The Council overrode the veto, but Bloomberg sued successfully to block it in a case decided in 2006 by the Court of Appeals.