A New York Appellate Court affirms the dismissal of a legal challenge to marriage-recognition brought by the antigay group the Alliance Defense Fund.
Last week, a New York court affirmed dismissal of a case brought against Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano by the antigay Arizona group the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) on behalf of three Westchester County taxpayers. The ADF brought suit against Spano in 2006 after he issued an executive order to officially recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples to the same extent the County recognizes marriages of different-sex couples. The ADF claimed that the executive order was illegal. Lambda Legal intervened on behalf of Michael Sabatino and Robert Voorheis, a Westchester couple who had married in Canada. In 2007, the trial court dismissed the ADF’s complaint, but the antigay group appealed to the Appellate Division.
In its decision, the Appellate Division said: “The Executive Order at issue here requires that same-sex marriages be recognized to ‘the maximum extent allowed by law.’ By its terms, therefore, the Executive Order can never require recognition of such a marriage where it would be outside the law to do so. Since it is within the authority of the County Executive ‘[t]o see that the laws of the state, pertaining to the affairs and government of the county…are executed and enforced within the county’ the Executive Order is not illegal.”
Even though the state still does not allow same-sex couples to enter into civil marriage within its borders, New York State’s longstanding marriage recognition rule requires respect for out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples. Lambda Legal has had a number of other victories on this front, including Godfrey v. DiNapoli, Lewis v. New York State Department of Civil Service, and Golden v. Paterson, a case brought against Governor Paterson by the ADF challenging a May 2008 directive that state agencies respect out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples. This latest victory in Spano is the second New York Appellate Court ruling on marriage recognition in the state, following a victory in a case brought by the NYCLU (Martinez v. County of Monroe); the higher court ruling allows government officials to continue to respect out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples without discrimination.
“Today the court has re-affirmed that our relationship will be honored in the community where we live and where we make our life together as a married couple,” says Sabatino. “It is a relief to know that we will continue to enjoy the rights and benefits of our marriage.”