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NY High Court Refuses Gay Marriage Case
by Newscenter Staff

Posted: May 6, 2008 - 5:00 pm ET

(New York City) The Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York State, Tuesday declined to hear a case challenging an appeals court ruling that found the marriages of same-sex couples married in jurisdictions where they are legal must be recognized in New York.

The decision not to accept the case means the lower court ruling will stand.

On February 1 the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court reversed a judge's ruling in 2006 that Monroe Community College did not have to extend health benefits to an employee's lesbian partner. (story)

Patricia Martinez, a word processing supervisor, sued the school in 2005, arguing that it granted benefits to heterosexual married couples but denied them to Martinez and her partner, Lisa Ann Golden.

The couple formalized their relationship in a civil union ceremony in Vermont in 2001 and were married in Canada in 2004.

The college refused to add Golden to the health care benefits because its contract with the Civil Service Employees Association did not address benefits for same-sex partners. Since then, the contract has been enhanced to extend benefits to an employee's domestic partner.

State Supreme Court Justice Harold Galloway dismissed Martinez's lawsuit in August 2006, saying that the state does not recognize same-sex marriages. The state legislature ``currently defines marriage as limited to the union of one man and one woman,'' he wrote.

The appellate judges disagreed, determining that there is no legal impediment in New York to the recognition of a same-sex marriage.

The state legislature ``may decide to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages solemnized abroad,'' the ruling said. ``Until it does so, however, such marriages are entitled to recognition in New York.''

Monroe County asked the high court to overturn the appellate court ruling.

Empire State Pride Agenda, the largest LGBT rights group in New York State welcomed the decision not to reopen the case, and prodded the legislature to pass marriage equality legislation for all New Yorkers.

"Despite today's good news, the state of marriage for same-sex couples in New York is still unsettled," said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle.

"Until a law is passed by the New York State Legislature, there will always be the possibility that another court decision could undo Martinez v. County of Monroe and strip away from otherwise legally married same-sex couples all of the 1324 state-based rights and responsibilities that come with a marriage license in New York."

In 2006 the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled that same-sex couples do not have an automatic constitutional right to marry in the state. (story) It said that the issue, however, could be taken up by the Legislature.

Last June the Democratically-controlled New York State Assembly passed same-sex marriage legislation (story) but the GOP-controlled Senate has refused to take up the bill.

© 2008


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