An appellate court in Brooklyn has upheld a lower court’s ruling that Westchester County did not violate the New York constitution when it offered marriage benefits to same-sex couples. The ruling has led a senior attorney with Lambda Legal to declare: “Marriage has come to New York for same-sex couples.”
A state appeals court has upheld an unflinching ruling by a lower court that Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano did not violate the state constitution or earlier court rulings when he ordered county departments to recognize gay marriages legally performed in other states and countries. Spano’s 2006 executive order had little practical impact because the county bestows only a handful of minor rights on married couples, including the right to buy family passes to county parks. But advocates say the two rulings upholding Spano’s order multiplied its limited impact by affirming that localities are free to recognize gay couples who marry in Connecticut and Massachusetts and the handful of nations that allow gay couples to wed, including Canada.
The unanimous ruling by the Appellate Division in Brooklyn is the second in a year to include gay couples in the state’s tradition of recognizing marriages performed elsewhere even if the marriages could not be legally performed here. In February, an appeals court in Rochester ruled that Monroe County must provide health benefits to the woman, a female county worker married in Canada. “Marriage has come to New York for same-sex couples,” said Susan Sommer, senior counsel with Lambda Legal, a gay rights group in New York City that defended Spano’s order against the four Westchester residents who filed it. She said the next step is for the state “to allow same sex couples to marry here at home instead of having to travel to a foreign country or another state.”
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