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Friday, January 9, 2009

NY Court Decision Affirms Out-of-State Marriage Recognition

A decision last week from the New York Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed dismissal of a case brought by antigay Arizona group the Alliance Defense Fund and confirmed that Westchester County Executive Spano lawfully recognized out-of-state marriages of same–sex couples.

The Court said in its decision: …”The Executive Order at issue here requires that same-sex marriages be recognized to ‘the maximum extent allowed by law.’ By its terms, therefore, the Executive Order can never require recognition of such a marriage where it would be outside the law to do so. Since it is within the authority of the County Executive ‘[t]o see that the laws of the state, pertaining to the affairs and government of the county…are executed and enforced within the county’) the Executive Order is not illegal.”

“Yet another appellate court has ruled that government officials act lawfully when they respect out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples,” said Susan Sommer, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal. “The Alliance Defense Fund has wasted the courts’ time and taxpayers’ money in their years of consistently unsuccessful cases attacking these marriages in New York and the government officials who refuse to discriminate against lesbian and gay New Yorkers.”

In February 2008, in Martinez v. County of Monroe, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department in Rochester, also upheld application of the marriage recognition rule to valid out–of–state marriages of same-sex couples. Today’s decision comes after four ADF losses at the trial court level and is the first New York Appellate Court ruling on their cases challenging marriage recognition. The ADF, on behalf of several Westchester County taxpayers, challenged County Executive Spano’s June 6, 2006 Executive Order No. 3, which directs, “each and every department, board, agency, and commission of the County of Westchester under my jurisdiction to recognize same sex marriages lawfully entered into outside the State of New York in the same manner as they currently recognize opposite sex marriages for the purposes of extending and administering all rights and benefits belonging to these couples, to the maximum extent allowed by law.” In March 2007, the lower court ruled that Spano’s order was legally issued and consistent with New York law. That ruling was appealed. In oral argument on June 23, 2008, Lambda Legal represented Westchester County couple Michael Sabatino and Robert Voorheis, who had married in Canada and were permitted to intervene as defendants in the case.

“Today the court has re–affirmed that our relationship will be honored in the community where we live and where we make our life together as a married couple,” said Sabatino. “It is a relief to know that we will continue to enjoy the rights and benefits of our marriage.”

In July, Attorney General Cuomo, on behalf of Governor Paterson, filed a motion to dismiss a similar case brought by the Alliance Defense Fund. The ADF, on behalf of a group of taxpayers, challenged Governor Paterson’s May 14, 2008 directive that state agencies respect out-of-state marriages of same–sex couples, consistent with long-standing New York law.

The court granted Lambda Legal’s motion to intervene in the case on behalf of Peri Rainbow and Tamela Sloan, long-time public employees who are raising a special needs child adopted from foster care. The couple depends on the protections that come from respect for their marriage. On September 2, 2008, the New York Supreme Court (Bronx trial court) dismissed the lawsuit, ensuring that couples will continue to be treated equally in New York State.

Source: Lambda Legal

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