Advice & Education

Rights groups release updated guide for New York same-sex couples married out of state

Lambda Legal, Empire State Pride Agenda, New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union have released a guide outlining government protections and obligations for same-sex couples in New York who married out of state. The updated guide is released as the first anniversary of Martinez v. County of Monroe draws near, and in light of last week’s decision in Lewis v. New York State Dept. of Civil Service — both notable appellate court rulings that upheld government recognition of out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples.

The document, titled: Your Government Respects Your Marriage: Developments in New York State Agency Recognition of Same-Sex Couples’ Out-of-State Marriages, details many of the ways state agencies around New York accord legal respect to married same-sex couples. Lambda Legal, NYCLU, Empire State Pride Agenda and ACLU worked closely with state agencies to confirm and clarify the legal rights afforded to same-sex couples married out of state. The summary offers an overview of some of these statewide protections.

“The guide is a crucial primer for same-sex couples who are recognized as spouses in New York,” said Susan Sommer, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, who has litigated many of the cases confirming marriage respect for same-sex couples. “It shows significant areas in which these couples now are protected, ranging from access to health insurance, to accurate birth certificates for children born to same-sex couples, to important workers’ compensation benefits if tragedy strikes. But until New Yorkers in same-sex relationships can marry in their home state, they are still vulnerable to discrimination.”

“Couples in New York who have never known true security for their families are finally getting a taste of the family protections other married couples and their children enjoy,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The governor’s determination was based on the NYCLU’s victory in the case Martinez v. County of Monroe, in which an appeals court unanimously ruled that New York State must recognize valid out-of-state marriages of lesbian and gay couples. We commend the governor and our state agencies for following the law and standing up for fairness. But lasting progress requires leadership from both the judicial and legislative branches. It’s time for our political leaders to do what’s right. New Yorkers should not have to leave the state to protect their families.”

“Policymakers and elected officials in New York should recognize that we’re already living in a state with marriage for same-sex couples. Unfortunately, these couples currently have to go out of state to have their weddings performed,” said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda. “Not only does this mean a loss of literally millions of dollars to New York’s economy, but it is also patently unfair to same-sex couples. New Yorkers shouldn’t have to go elsewhere to get married when they want to stand up in front of friends and family right here and get married in their home state.”