N.Y. to Recognize Other Jurisdictions' Gay Marriages

By Robin Shulman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 30, 2008

NEW YORK -- Same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere will be recognized in New York state, according to the office of Gov. David A. Paterson.

In response to a February state court ruling, the governor's office has directed all state agencies to revise their regulations and policies to ensure respect for same-sex marriages from states and countries where they are legal.

In a videotaped message to gay community leaders at a recent dinner, Paterson (D) called the directive a "strong step toward marriage equality."

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno (R), an opponent of same-sex marriage, said he will review the implications of the directive to see if the governor "overstepped his legal authority."

"I am concerned that Governor Paterson's decision to have agencies recognize gay marriage is an attempt to subvert the legal authority of the legislature," Bruno said.

Same-sex marriage is not legal in New York. But advocates said the governor's directive could be part of a move toward legalization.

"I think it is a step toward legalizing marriage for same-sex couples in New York in the long run," said Susan Sommer, senior counsel for the gay rights group Lambda Legal.

In the directive, issued on May 14 and first reported by the New York Times, the governor's legal counsel, David Nocenti, said that gay couples who have been legally married outside New York "should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union."

He said state agencies should immediately change their policies and procedures to ensure that terms such as "spouse," "husband" and "wife" are understood to include gay couples, and report back to him by June 30.

The directive was dated a day before the California Supreme Court ruled to allow same-sex marriage, overturning that state's ban. That ruling will go into effect in mid-June unless the court agrees to an appeal asking it to stay the decision until after a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment banning the marriages.

Advocates said hundreds, perhaps thousands, of gay New Yorkers have already traveled to Canada to marry even though that conferred no guaranteed rights at home.

"Now we know those couples will receive 1,324 rights that come with a New York state marriage license," said Alan Van Capelle, the executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay advocacy group. Those rights cover such things as inheritance and adoption rules and shared health-care plans. "This is a big deal for New Yorkers who are desperately hungry to be able to protect the people that they love," he added.

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