Gay Marriages From Other States Recognized by NY Appeals Court

By: Gary E Rosenberg

New York must recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states, until another appeals court rules otherwise. This was held by the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, this past Friday, February 1, 2008.

The decision in Martinez v. County of Monroe arose out of Martinez's quest to obtain spousal health care benefits from Monroe Community College for Lisa Golden, whom she married in Ontario, Canada. There was no question that the marriage was legal where performed. And then they returned to New York.

In the absence of a New York statute forbidding same-sex marriage, the Court found no reason not to recognize the marriage. It held that the marriage "is entitled to recognition in New York State." Is this a silent invitation to the New York State legislature to pass a law deciding this issue one way or the other? Maybe.

After the lawsuit was started but before the court's decision, the college changed its health insurance policy to cover same-sex spouses. This gave rise to an interesting wrinkle in this case, for if Lisa Golden was getting health insurance anyway, what was there left to sue over? In legal terms we ask if there was any longer a "justiciable controversy." The Court said that there was, as the college would be liable for damages for the time period that it refused to give health insurance coverage to the plaintiff's spouse. We don't know if those damages are great or small. They might be the cost of Lisa Golden going to the doctor's office, or her out-of-pocket expense to purchase her own health insurance or whatever.

Thus, it seems that the court had a potential way out here if it wanted to duck the controversy entirely. It may have decided that since the college is now providing health benefits, there wasn't justiciable controversy so the lawsuit was "moot." Instead, the court waded in and addressed the gay marriage issue head-on, giving a favorable and enlightened reading to the facts before it. No cowards on this Appellate Division, Fourth Department panel.

Commentary: Gay advocates hail the decision as only a first step towards what they consider truly would be fair: permitting gay marriages in New York State. I and my lawyer friends look forward to the day when gay marriage is legal in New York; where there are gay marriages, there WILL be gay divorces.

Until another appeals court rules otherwise, New York must recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states. So held the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department this past Friday, February 1, 2008.

The decision in Martinez v. County of Monroe arose out of Martinez's quest to obtain spousal health care benefits from Monroe Community College for Lisa Golden, whom she married in Ontario, Canada. There was no question that the marriage was legal where performed. And then they returned to New York.

In the absence of a New York statute forbidding same-sex marriage, the Court found no reason not to recognize the marriage. It held that the marriage "is entitled to recognition in New York State." Is this a silent invitation to the New York State legislature to pass a law deciding this issue one way or the other? Maybe.

After the lawsuit was started but before the court's decision, the college changed its health insurance policy to cover same-sex spouses. This gave rise to an interesting wrinkle in this case, for if Lisa Golden was getting health insurance anyway, what was there left to sue over? In legal terms we ask if there was any longer a "justiciable controversy." The Court said that there was, as the college would be liable for damages for the time period that it refused to give health insurance coverage to the plaintiff's spouse. We don't know if those damages are great or small. They might be the cost of Lisa Golden going to the doctor's office, or her out-of-pocket expense to purchase her own health insurance or whatever.

Thus, it seems that the court had a potential way out here if it wanted to duck the controversy entirely. It may have decided that since the college is now providing health benefits, there wasn't justiciable controversy so the lawsuit was "moot." Instead, the court waded in and addressed the gay marriage issue head-on, giving a favorable and enlightened reading to the facts before it. No cowards on this Appellate Division, Fourth Department panel.

Commentary: Gay advocates hail the decision as only a first step towards what they consider truly would be fair: permitting gay marriages in New York State. I and my lawyer friends look forward to the day when gay marriage is legal in New York; where there are gay marriages, there WILL be gay divorces.


Legal Matters
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Legal Matters
 



Share this article :
Click to see more related articles