The attorney general of New York State on Wednesday set a national precedent by stating that same-sex couples who have been legally married elsewhere are legally married in the state. Eliot Spitzer also issued an advisory to local officials saying they should not authorize or solemnize marriages of same-sex couples themselves, though he did not say whether it's constitutional to deny such marriages.
In the first statewide clarification of its kind in the nation, Spitzer made it clear that couples who have legally married in Canada, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., or elsewhere are also married under New York law and must be given all of the rights and protections of marriage in the state. "This is a tremendous breakthrough for lesbian and gay couples and their families," said David Buckel, Marriage Project Director at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. "The bottom line is that same-sex couples all over New York are married, and the state's top legal authority has made it clear that their marriages are no different than anyone else's."
For months Lambda has been working with more than 100 couples--in every major city in the state--who got married in Canada and need to be legally recognized as married couples in New York. Along with other groups, Lambda will now work with local governments in the state to make sure they are complying with the attorney general's directive. "Lesbian and gay couples who married elsewhere are entitled to all of the protections and benefits that marriage provides," Buckel said. "If a city or county doesn't comply with this, they'll be on the wrong side of state law, and we intend to take them to court so that couples are treated equally."
Buckel said city, county, and state employees will be affected by today's directive because they are entitled to employment benefits as married couples. Married lesbian and gay couples will also benefit from having their family ties with each other or their children fully respected and from receiving equal treatment as married couples at hospitals and businesses.