Court Rules New York Can Recognize Other States Same-Sex Marriages

By Staff Report

Nov. 23, 2009

New York’s highest court has upheld the state’s recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states.

The New York Court of Appeals ruled unanimously Thursday, November 20, in two cases, Margaret Godfrey v. Andrew J. Spano and Kenneth J. Lewis v. New York State Department of Civil Service, in upholding decisions by the appellate division of the state Supreme Court.

Godfrey challenged a 2006 executive order issued by Spano, Westchester County’s executive, to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Lewis challenged the New York State Civil Service Commission’s and its commissioner’s recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages.

In both cases, the New York Court of Appeals ruled against the plaintiffs’ contentions that same-sex marriages should not be recognized because they cost the taxpayers money.

Referring to Godfrey, the court decision noted that Westchester County “already insured same-sex domestic partners and dependents of county employees before the executive order was issued.” The plaintiff’s claim “failed to allege an unlawful expenditure of taxpayer funds,” it said.

In Lewis, the court also concluded that the Civil Service Commission president has “broad discretion to define who will qualify for coverage” based on legislative history.

The opinion also urged the New York Legislature to “address this controversy.”

Filed by Judy Greenwald of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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