Skip to Main Content

Need help understanding your rights as an LGBTQ+ person or someone living with HIV? Visit our virtual Help Desk.

Case seeking health benefits for same-sex spouse of retired New York school teacher after they were married in Canada


Duke Funderburke worked as a teacher at the Uniondale Union Free School District in Nassau County for more than two decades before retiring in 1986. He married his partner of 45 years, Bradley Davis, in 2004 in a ceremony in Ontario, Canada. When Funderburke requested that his retirement health benefits be extended to his spouse, just as benefits are extended to the spouses of other married retirees, the school district refused. With Lambda Legal’s help, Funderburke won respect for his marriage in New York.

While this case was on appeal from an unfavorable trial court ruling, the New York State Department of Civil Service (DCS) agreed to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of public employees covered under the New York State Health Insurance Program, including Funderburke and his spouse. As a result, married lesbian and gay public employees working at more than 800 New York state and local government employers have access to insurance coverage for their spouses. On Lambda Legal’s motion, the Appellate Division, Second Department, vacated the unfavorable trial court ruling.


According to longstanding common law, marriages validly performed in other jurisdictions are recognized in New York State.

Lambda Legal’s Impact

Lambda Legal is working to secure legal and social recognition in New York for marriages of same-sex couples that are validly entered into in places such as Canada. We’re also fighting to ensure that LGBT couples have equal access to the same health and retirement benefits other married couples enjoy.


  • April 2005 Lambda Legal files lawsuit on behalf of Funderburke arguing that New York law requires government entities to respect marriages performed out of state, including marriages of same-sex couples which were validly performed elsewhere.
  • July 2006 New York Supreme Court (the first level court in New York ) rules against Funderburke.
  • August 2006 Lambda Legal files appeal in Appellate Division, Second Department, arguing that the Supreme Court was wrong in refusing to recognize Funderburke’s marriage as valid simply because same-sex couples may not yet legally marry in New York.
  • May 2007 The New York State Department of Civil Services changes its policy to recognize spouses of same-sex couples married in other jurisdictions for the purpose of eligibility for benefits.
  • March 2008 The Appellate Division, Second Department, grants Lambda Legal’s motion to vacate the lower court’s ruling, wiping it off the books.