- Views & Opinions
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s top court on Thursday rejected a Christian legal group’s challenge to some government benefits provided to same-sex couples legally married elsewhere and now living in New York.
But the court avoided declaring that same-sex couples are entitled to all the rights of other married couples.
In a 4-3 decision on the narrow question of benefits, the Court of Appeals did not address whether the state must recognize same-sex marriage. The case was pushed by the Alliance Defense Fund of Scottsdale, Ariz.
A law to allow same-sex marriage in New York is hung up in the state Senate but could come to a vote before the end of the year.
One judge warned that failing to address the larger question of recognizing same-sex marriages will create a problem.
“The effect of the majority’s rationale in affirming these orders will be to permit an unworkable pattern of conflicting executive and administrative directives … (at the) individual discretion of each agency head,” Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick warned in an otherwise concurring opinion.
“We ought to avoid the confusion that would arise from a same-sex couple considered legally married by one agency for one purpose, but not married by another agency for a different purpose,” the judge wrote.
The court ruling noted that same-sex marriage isn’t legal in New York under the state Constitution. However, the Constitution doesn’t address whether New York can recognize a same-sex marriage legally performed in another state.
Many gay New Yorkers have been married in a handful of states and Canada but reside in New York and seek hundreds of government benefits and rights they say they’ve been denied.
Gay marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont and was for a time in California. A New Hampshire law takes effect next year, and voters in Maine repealed a law this month that would have allowed same-sex marriage.
With Thursday’s court decision, legally married same-sex couples will be entitled to public employee health insurance coverage and certain other benefits provided to heterosexual spouses.
The lawsuit challenged the granting of those benefits by the state Civil Service Department and Westchester County, and was upheld in a lower court. The lower court’s ruling was challenged by the Alliance Defense Fund, which has challenged similar decisions nationwide.
There was no immediate comment from the Alliance Defense Fund or Empire State Pride Agenda, a leading advocate for gay rights in New York.