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A Small Bite of the Apple: NY's Narrow Ruling on Gay Marriages

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on November 20, 2009 9:15 AM

Advocates for same sex marriages won a small victory in the state of New York's Supreme Court on Thursday. The court unanimously rejected the challenge to NY's policies that can recognize benefits stemming from same sex unions legal in other states such as Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont.

Those pleased by the ruling aren't popping champagne corks just yet, though. This decision affects a relatively small number of people. The majority opinion stated clearly that the ruling was based on specifics of the cases involved and does not reach the broader question of whether the state as a whole will recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Writing for the majority, Judge Eugene F. Pigott, Jr. said, the court hopes the "Legislature will address this controversy."

Who will be positively affected? One case before the court involved the State Department of Civil Service which granted insurance benefits to same sex partners of state and local workers married out of state. Another case involves policies in Weschester County. In 2006, county executive Andrew J. Spano ordered county officials to recognize same-sex unions performed outside the county.

NY Gov. David A. Paterson has made addressing the issue of same sex marriage a priority. He issued an executive order to extend state recognition to same sex couples married in states and other places, such as Canada, where they are legal. The order was challenged as unconstitutional by opponents of same sex marriage. Legislation to allow gay couples to be married in New York is making its way through the State Legislature. It has passed the Assembly, but has not yet come up for a vote in the Senate.

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