When you’re from Rochester, NY, how often do you really get the chance to show a little hometown pride (be honest now, Rochestarians)? I grew up in Rochester and I work there now, and I’ve got to say that the city gets a pretty bad rap, and not entirely an undeserved one. But today we have a reason to rejoice and claim the city as truly bad ass: a New York appellate court in Monroe County ruled that New York must recognize legal same-sex marriages from outside the state.
Even though gay couples may not legally marry in New York, the appellate court in Rochester held that a gay couple’s 2004 marriage in Canada must be respected under the state’s longstanding “marriage recognition rule,” and that an employer’s denial of health benefits had discriminated against the couple on the basis of their sexual orientation.
“The Legislature may decide to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages solemnized abroad,” a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled unanimously in rejecting a 2006 lower court decision. “Until it does so, however, such marriages are entitled to recognition in New York.”
[. . .]
As a practical matter, the marriages of thousands of gay couples entered into outside the state have been recognized in recent years by many state and local agencies and by private employers for purposes of allowing health and life insurance coverage, child care and other benefits. But others have resisted doing so voluntarily, pending the outcome of numerous cases in the courts.
Friday’s ruling, legal experts said, was the first by an appellate division court, and would make the recognition of valid out-of-state gay marriages mandatory across New York. It was not clear whether Monroe County and Monroe Community College in Rochester, the employer in the case, would appeal.
Daniel DeLaus Jr., the county attorney for Rochester, said his office was reviewing the decision and would decide whether to seek an appeal.
Jeffrey Wicks, a lawyer who represents the plaintiff, Patricia Martinez, said that New York had recognized common-law marriages, even marriages of closely related people that might not be allowed in the state. “There’s a long tradition in New York of recognizing marriages that couldn’t be performed in New York,” he said.
The New York Civil Liberties Union, which represented Ms. Martinez, a word-processing supervisor at the college, hailed the ruling. The union called it “the first known decision in the country to hold that a valid same-sex marriage must be recognized.”
Well, okay, so maybe “the city” itself isn’t bad ass, since they were the ones fighting the recognition of same-sex marriages in the first place (though thanks, jackasses, for the legal opportunity). But right now, I consider that a minor detail; don’t burst my bubble, people.
And for those same-sex couples in the Greater Rochester Area, there’s an extra bonus beyond the bragging rights; Niagara Falls is only about 90 minutes away. Day trip!