Sunday, February 03, 2008

First same-sex marriage validated in the U.S. across country and state lines

San Francisco – New York’s appellate court unanimously ruled February 1 that New York must recognize a lesbian couple’s Canadian nuptials.

The first of its kind court decision in the U.S. ruled that same-sex marriages entered into outside of the state must be recognized, according to an ACLU February 1 news release.

"This is a victory for families, it's a victory for fairness and it’s a victory for human rights," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU in the release. “Congratulations to all same-sex couples validly married outside of New York State: You are now considered married in New York as well. Now we need to work toward a New York where you don't have to cross state or country lines to get married."

The New York Civil Liberties Union filed the case, Martinez v. County of Monroe, in the state supreme court on behalf of Patricia Martinez seeking health care benefits for her partner Lisa Ann Golden in 2005, according to the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit Martinez married Golden in Ontario, Canada in 2004 and the couple celebrated a civil union together in Vermont prior to their marriage. The couple has been together since 2000 and in spite of their legal union they were denied extension of health care benefits by Monroe Community College where Martinez has worked since 1994. Golden was employed as an inventory control specialist and had her own benefits until she lost her benefits in 2004. In every aspect of their lives, from owning a home to legally and fiscally being responsible for each other the women’s relationship is the same as opposite sex married couples, according to information outlined in the lawsuit.

"Gay and lesbian couples make the same long term commitments to each other as heterosexual couples," said Gary Pudup, director of the NYCLU’s Genessee Valley Chapter, in the release. "This case highlights the fact that same-sex couples are entitled to the same protection under state law."

This case raised the issue of whether the time-honored "marriage recognition rule," which requires New York State to recognize marriages that were solemnized outside the state, applies to same-sex marriages, according to the release. The court answered with a resounding yes, stated the release, holding that the couple's valid Canadian marriage at issue in the case is entitled to recognition.

"If a marriage is valid in the state or country in which the marriage took place, New York law generally requires the recognition of that marriage," said Arthur Eisenberg, the NYCLU’s legal director, in the release. "This case involved a straightforward application of that principle."

"Today's decision is a great step forward for same-sex couples in New York," added James Esseks, litigation director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project of the ACLU, in the release. "But there is still lots of work to be done here. It’s now up to the state legislature to finish the job it started last year and pass the marriage bill so that lesbian and gay New Yorkers won’t have to leave the state to celebrate their commitments."

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