February 2, 2008 / 12:57 AM / 10 years ago

N.Y. court declares out-of-state gay marriages valid

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York appeals court ruled on Friday that valid same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries must be recognized in New York, the first known ruling of its kind in the country, a rights group said.

“This is a victory for families, it’s a victory for fairness and it’s a victory for human rights,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Now we need to work toward a New York where you don’t have to cross state or country lines to get married.”

Gay marriage is a hot political issue in the United States. Massachusetts is the only U.S. state that allows same-sex marriage, while several states allow civil unions for gay couples. More than 25 states have constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriage.

The case was originally brought in 2005 in New York state court by Patricia Martinez, a word processing supervisor at Monroe Community College in Rochester. Martinez argued her wife, Lisa Golden, should be awarded spousal health benefits.

The women were married in Canada in 2004, but the college argued the marriage was not valid in New York. The state court agreed.

On Friday, an appeals court panel, in a unanimous ruling, found the marriage “is entitled to recognition in New York in the absence of express legislation to the contrary.”

“The Legislature may decide to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages solemnized abroad. Until it does so, however, such marriages are entitled to recognition in New York,” the court ruled.

A representative from Monroe Community College was not immediately available for comment on Friday.

Reporting by Edith Honan, Editing by Michelle Nichols and Peter Cooney

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