New York court upholds recognition of foreign marriages

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A lawyer from Lambda Legal has welcomed a ruling by a New York State judge upholding the state’s policy of recognising Canadian marriages of same-sex couples for purposes of spousal health insurance coverage for public employees.

“Yet another court is saying that respect for out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples is the law in New York,” said Susan Sommer, Senior Counsel, who handled the case.

Lambda Legal is a US-wide organisation committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

“In recent months there has been a steady drumbeat of courts recognising long-established New York law as it applies to same-sex couples,” she added,

“We are very pleased.”

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. McNamara wrote:

“The policy memorandum issued by the New York State Department of Civil Service Employee Benefits Division in which it recognised, as spouses, the parties to any same sex marriage, performed in jurisdictions where such marriage is legal, is both lawful and within its authority.”

Lambda Legal intervened in the lawsuit Lewis v. Department of Civil Service on behalf of Peri Rainbow and Tamela Sloan.

Rainbow and Sloan are state employees who were married in Canada.

The New York State Health Insurance Programme provides important medical benefits for them as a family.

In May 2007, the New York State Department of Civil Service issued a revision to its policy in which it announced that it would recognise, as spouses, any marriage of same-sex couples performed in jurisdictions where such marriage is legal.

The lawsuit began when a few New York State taxpayers represented by the Alliance Defence Fund argued that the policy change was unconstitutional and an illegal expenditure of state funds.