November 25, 2008 — Monroe County officials have announced they will not challenge a New York Civil Liberties Union appeals court victory requiring recognition in New York State of lesbian and gay couples’ valid out-of-state marriages.
“This is a great day for fairness and families in New York State,” said Donna Lieberman, New York Civil Liberties Union executive director. “In dropping its appeal, Monroe County has finally recognized the fact that lesbian and gay couples are entitled to the same protections under state law that other couples receive.”
The case, Martinez v. County of Monroe, was brought by the NYCLU and 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, Lisa Ann Golden, whom she married in Canada in 2004. The case was filed in 2005 in State Supreme Court.
“We are very pleased and relieved that Monroe County has decided to accept the court’s holding,” Martinez said of the news. “We are grateful that we do not have to live with the fear of having the rug pulled out from under us. This is a victory for same-sex couples in New York and truly something to give thanks for as we head into the Thanksgiving weekend.”
Added Golden: “It’s nice to know that we can move forward now. This comes at a good time and we can add this to the many things we’ll be giving thanks for during this Thanksgiving holiday.”
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. The court held that the longstanding “marriage recognition rule,” which requires New York State to recognize marriages that were solemnized outside the state, applies to gay and lesbian couples’ valid marriages.
Monroe County had previously requested that the state’s highest court review and overrule the decision. In May, the high court dismissed the county’s request to hear the case, but left open the possibility of reviewing the case in the future. The county announced Friday that it had abandoned its intent to appeal.
“Lesbian and gay couples make the same long term commitments to each other as straight couples,” said Gary Pudup, director of the NYCLU’s Genessee Valley Chapter. “Now it’s time for our legislature to affirm the right of all of New York’s families to live with dignity. New Yorkers shouldn’t have to leave the state to protect their families.”
On Friday, New York State’s insurance superintendent announced that 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 insurance department’s determination is based on the Martinez case. Cooperating attorney Wicks said he was glad Monroe County decided to follow the law.
“If the state gets in the business of picking and choosing the marriages we want to recognize, then we’ve got a mess,” Wicks said.