Monday, March 19, 2007

New York Court Upholds Westchester County Executive Order

Source: Lambda Legal
Date: March 12, 2007

New York -- Lambda Legal announces today that the Supreme Court of New York, Westchester County has held that County Executive Spano is adhering to New York law in respecting out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples living in Westchester County.

Today’s decision follows a long history of settled law in New York, namely that our state respects marriages that are validly entered into in other jurisdictions,” said Alphonso David, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal and lead attorney on this case. “Our clients can now have peace of mind that their marriage is respected in Westchester, consistent with New York law.”

On June 6, 2006, Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano issued Executive Order No. 3, which provides that “every department, board, agency, and commission of the County of Westchester under my jurisdiction (shall) recognize same sex marriages lawfully entered into outside the State of New York in the same manner as they currently recognize opposite sex marriages” with regard to extending benefits and rights to those couples.

In 2004, then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer issued an opinion confirming that New York’s marriage recognition rule applies to marriages between same-sex spouses that are lawfully entered into in other jurisdictions. Since that time, a number of New York municipalities, including New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Nyack, Rochester, and Brighton, as well as Westchester County, have similarly publicly confirmed that, consistent with the marriage recognition rule, these municipal governments will respect marriages of same-sex couples validly performed outside the State.

On August 23, 2006, three purported Westchester County residents sued Spano, claiming that he did not have the right to issue his executive order. On November 30, 2006, Lambda Legal intervened in the case on behalf of Westchester County couple Michael Sabatino and Robert Voorheis, who married in Canada where same-sex couples may legally wed.

Today’s decision takes away any doubt that we are who we have always said we are: a married couple,” said Sabatino. “It’s so freeing to have our relationship honored for what it is in the community where we live and make our life together as a married couple.”

Public and private employers across New York are respecting marriages of same-sex couples in the state, as are numerous corporations that conduct business in New York. Lambda Legal worked with John Galanti to obtain spousal health insurance coverage for his spouse, John Hotchkiss, from Galanti’s employer the Town of Chili. Further, insurance companies such as CIGNA, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Insurance Company and Health Economics Group, have confirmed that they will respect marriages between same-sex couples for purposes of spousal health and dental coverage.

Lambda Legal has been a leader in the fight for respecting same-sex relationships in New York. In June of 2004, for example, Lambda Legal convinced automobile insurance providers in New York including Geico, State Farm, Allstate, and now many others including Traveler’s Insurance, to confirm that same-sex couples who are validly married will receive family coverage and premium rates, if requested, on the same marital basis that apply to other married policyholders. Lambda Legal also sought marriage for same-sex couples in New York in its historic lawsuit, Hernandez v. Robles.

Judge Joan B. Lefkowitz entered her decision in Godfrey et al v. Spano earlier today.

Alphonso David is Lambda Legal’s lead attorney on Godfrey et al v. Spano with Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Susan L. Sommer. Jeffrey S. Trachtman and Norman C. Simon of the New York City law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP are co-counsel on the case.

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Mark Roy: 212-809-8585 ext. 267;

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.