New York Recognizes Gay Marriage
While gays still can’t marry in New York, marriages performed out-of-state will now be recognized when they come home.
Same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere will be recognized in New York in response to a state court ruling this year, Gov. David Paterson’s spokeswoman said Wednesday. State agencies, including those governing insurance and health care, must immediately change policies and regulations to make sure “spouse,” “husband” and “wife” are clearly understood to include gay couples, according to a memo sent earlier this month from the governor’s counsel.
Gay marriage is not legal in New York, and the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, has said it can only be legalized by the Legislature. But the memo, based on a Feb. 1 New York Appellate Division court ruling, would recognize the marriages of New Yorkers who are legally wed elsewhere. The appellate judges determined that there is no legal impediment in New York to the recognition of a same-sex marriage. The state Legislature “may decide to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages solemnized abroad,” the ruling said. “Until it does so, however, such marriages are entitled to recognition in New York.”
Massachusetts is currently the only U.S. state that recognizes same-sex marriage, but its residency requirements would bar New Yorkers from marrying there. New York residents could instead flock to California, where gay couples will be able to wed beginning June 17 — unless that state’s Supreme Court decides to stay its own ruling. Upon their return home, in the eyes of the state, their unions would be no different from those of their heterosexual neighbors.
The most populous state in the country will soon perform gay marriages and the polling evidence indicates that a majority of Californians are fine with that, meaning it’s unlikely to change through plebiscite or constitutional amendment. Now, the third most populous state and the home of the largest city in America will legitimate the act on the opposite coast. Objectively, this means gay marriage will be legal across the country sooner rather than later.
New York gays will soon demand the right to marry without flying across the country. It’s hard to make an argument against them if the state is recognizing other marriages between same-sex couples.
Further, the federal courts will use these precedents as a basis for finding a right to same-sex marriage in the Equal Protection clause, arguing that the cultural norms claim that had previously justified denying gays the right to marriage is no longer valid.