U.S. News

NY court backs recognition of same-sex marriages

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York officials should recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries where they are legal, even though New York State does not allow gay marriage, a state court judge ruled on Tuesday.

Justice Lucy Billings rejected arguments by the national Alliance Defense Fund that New York Gov. David Paterson overstepped his authority in May when he instructed officials to recognize same-sex marriages conducted outside New York.

“Nothing is more antithetical to family stability than requiring (couples) to abandon that solemnized commitment,” Billings wrote in her decision.

Many state agencies and municipalities have followed that policy for years, civil liberties groups said.

The lawsuit against Paterson marks the fourth failed legal challenge of Paterson’s directive brought by the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund.

Each of those cases are being appealed and Alliance Defense Fund lawyer Jim Campbell said the group plans to appeal Tuesday’s ruling.

“We believe that the trial court’s ruling is incorrect and that the governor has in fact usurped his authority by overriding the people’s decision to define marriage in New York as the union of one man and one woman,” Campbell said.

Paterson welcomed the ruling. “This decision is a wise and fair determination of the policy that holds valid same-sex marriages legally performed in other states,” he said in a statement.

“The ruling is an important affirmation that New York is expected to recognize marriages legally performed in other states, unless existing laws prevent it. New York has no specific prohibition on recognition of same-sex marriages.”

Gay marriage is a hot political issue in the United States. Massachusetts and California are the only U.S. states that allow same-sex marriage, although several states allow gay civil unions. Same-sex marriage is also legal in Canada, South Africa, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Paterson’s predecessor as governor, Eliot Spitzer, who resigned earlier this year, proposed legalizing same-sex marriage in New York last year but said he expected such a bill to be rejected by the legislature.

More than 25 states have constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriage, many of them approved in measures placed on the ballot for the 2004 presidential election.