The New York Civil Liberties Union today filed suit in State Supreme Court of Monroe County on behalf of a Rochester woman seeking same sex benefits for her female partner whom she married in Canada. The couple also solemnized their relationship in a civil union in Vermont. The NYCLU is filing its lawsuit on behalf of Patricia Martinez against Monroe County College (MCC) for whom Martinez works, as well as Monroe County.

The suit says the state constitutional rights of Martinez and her spouse are being violated because they are a lesbian couple.
“Gay and lesbian couples make the same long term commitments to each other as heterosexual couples,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “This case highlights the fact that same sex couples are entitled to the same protection under state law.”

Martinez has been a word processing supervisor for Monroe Community College in Rochester New York since 1994. Golden was employed as an inventory control specialist and had her own benefits until she lost her benefits in the spring of 2004. The women have been in a long term, committed relationship since 2000. They own a home together, share financial responsibility for their expenses and each other’s needs and have drawn up mutual wills.

Martinez and Golden entered into a civil union in Burlington, Vermont in July 2001. When it was legally possible, they were married in Niagara Falls, Ont. in July 2004.

“Last year, Attorney General Spitzer reiterated that New York State recognizes out-of-state and Canadian marriages, even if the same marriages cannot be performed in New York State” said Barbara de Leeuw, Executive Director of the Genesee Valley Chapter of the NYCLU. “The Martinez case is discrimination pure and simple.” In March of 2004 Martinez wrote a letter to MCC Human Resources Director, Sherry Ralston, who is also a defendant in this suit, requesting spousal health benefits for Golden as provided for by the Monroe County Community College Employment contract. The letter contained all of her documentation. Her request for benefits was denied. After repeated appeals and denials, Martinez requested legal assistance from the NYCLU.

Martinez is seeking an order requiring governmental employers like MCC to adopt fair and equitable health care policies that will allow same sex couples to assume the rights and responsibilities extended to all New Yorkers in solemnized relationships.

“The lawsuit states that it is unlawful for County officials not to extend the same benefits to a legally married couple simply because they are gay,” said Jeffrey Wicks, cooperating attorney with the NYCLU. “What we are seeking is full application of the law to Martinez and Lisa Golden, as well as other gay and lesbian couples."