Based on NYCLU Victory, State Orders Insurance Companies to Cover Lesbian and Gay Families

November 21, 2008 —  Related

  • The Insurance Department's Advisory Opinion (PDF)
  • Insurance companies must treat married New York couples who are lesbian and gay the same as any married couple and offer them health insurance coverage, the state’s insurance superintendent announced today. The insurance department’s determination is based on a New York Civil Liberties Union victory in the case Martinez v. County of Monroe, in which an appeals court unanimously ruled that New York State must recognize valid out-of-state same-sex marriages.

    “Thanks to the insurance superintendent’s announcement, families across New York will feel safer tonight then they did last night,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director. “This is about security and fairness, and the State of New York today stood up for both.”

    Martinez v. County of Monroe was brought by the NYCLU with cooperating attorney Jeffrey Wicks on behalf of Patricia Martinez. Martinez, an employee of Monroe Community College in Rochester, sought health care benefits for her wife whom she married in Canada in 2004. The case was filed in 2005 in State Supreme Court. In February of this year, an appellate court unanimously affirmed the couple’s marriage, the first appellate court decision in the state to hold that a valid same-sex marriage must be recognized.

    Then in May, Gov. David Paterson asked state agencies to follow the Martinez decision and revise their policies and regulations to recognize marriages of same-sex couples legally performed in places such as Massachusetts and Canada. Today’s announcement by the insurance superintendent is in response to Paterson’s request and the Martinez victory.

    “This is another milestone in the fight for fairness in New York,” said NYCLU staff attorney Matt Faiella. “There are couples who, for the first time, will finally get a taste of the family protections other married couples and their children enjoy.”

    Faiella was lead counsel on a July case in which the NYCLU sued Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Western New York for denying spousal health care benefits to a school psychologist and her wife who were validly married in Canada in 2006. Less than three weeks later, the health insurance company announced it would begin covering married same-sex couples.

    “We are glad that all insurance providers will now take the same steps that Blue Cross and many others have already taken to ensure that all families are protected,” Faiella said.