Straight couples caught in gay marriage fray
December 21 2004 1:00 AM ET
The Social Security Administration is rejecting marriage documents issued for heterosexual couples in four communities that performed weddings for gay couples earlier this year. The agency is rejecting all marriage certificates issued in New Paltz, N.Y., after February 27, when the town's mayor began marrying gay couples, according to town officials. Certificates issued during the brief periods when Asbury Park, N.J., Multnomah County, Ore., and Sandoval County, N.M., recognized gay marriages are
also being rejected.
Susie Kilpatrick, 30, of New Paltz, said the local Social Security office told her that no marriage documents issued after February 27 could be used to establish identity because of the same-sex marriages that took place there earlier this year. About 125 heterosexual couples have been married since then. Kilpatrick said her marriage certificate was rejected when she went to get a new card earlier this month so she could take her husband's name. "What concerns me is that the certificate is the only way to prove that we're married," she told The New York Times. "If something happens
to us or some other couple from New Paltz, we can't prove we're married. We would not be able to draw benefits."
The agency posts rules on its Web site spelling out which documents can be used to obtain Social Security cards. It accepts civil union documents from Vermont and marriage licenses for gay
couples in Massachusetts. Marriage certificates for gay couples from San Francisco are not allowed, but those for heterosexual couples from the city are being recognized. The Web site said the legality of marriage documents in the other localities, including New Paltz, is "still unresolved at the state level."
New York State officials, including Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer and Gov. George Pataki, have said same-sex ceremonies violate state law. Several lawsuits challenging the law are pending, and New York's highest court, the court of appeals, is widely expected to make the ultimate decision on the legality of same-sex marriage in the state. Residents of New Paltz have expressed confusion as to why Social Security officials are targeting marriage licenses issued to straight couples in their town. Dan Wilen, New Paltz's town supervisor, said the agency never contacted town officials to inform them that the certificates would not be recognized. He called the policy unfair. "They're delving into every aspect of our lives, including marriage," he said. "I'm appalled."