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New York Offers Legal Marriage
by Demian
© July 12, 2011, Demian


On June 24, 2011, the New York State Legislature passed the Marriage Equality Act, which was signed into law by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo the same day. New York became the 8th American state to offer full, legal marriage to same-sex couples. This law took effect on July 24, 2011.

This marriage equality law — which offers rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples — helps fulfill the promise made to all American citizens for equal treatment and happiness.

New York’s marriage law represents a number of historic firsts:

  • New York is the largest state to so far pass civil marriage equality law.
  • For the first time, a Republican-led State Senate joined the Democrat-led Assembly in passing marriage legislation.
  • The marriage bill was strongly championed by governor Cuomo, who ran for office on his pledge to pass a bill and then campaigned steadily for it, making it one of his top priorities and committing political capital to its passage.
  • The bill’s passage was urged by a large number of America’s most prominent businesses including Xerox, Alcoa, and McGraw-Hill, and the heads of Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup, along with corporate leaders and labor unions, including very strong leadership by SEIU 1199.
  • The bill’s passage was also urged by numerous professional athletes, including Steve Nash (NBA), Sean Avery (New York Rangers), Michael Strahan (New York Giants), as well as the chairman of the New York Giants, and owner of the New Jersey Nets.
Evan Wolfson, founder/president of Freedom to Marry:
"Winning the freedom to marry in New York truly is a transformative moment for committed couples and for our country, a triumph for love and equality under the law. Now that we’ve made it here, we’ll make it everywhere – and as Americans’ hearts open and minds continue to change in favor of the freedom to marry, the momentum coming from New York’s giant step forward brings a nationwide end to marriage discrimination closer than ever.”
Family Equality Council estimates that New York has approximately 10,600 same-sex couples raising more than 21,000 kids. Marriage will not only help provide these children legal security, it demonstrates that their families are recognized and valued by society.

The history of the fight for civil marriage in New York shows a long and winding road to equality. It was fought mostly by volunteers from the coalition group New Yorkers United for Marriage, as well as by Lambda Legal, Empire State Pride Agenda, Freedom to Marry, Human Rights Campaign, Log Cabin Republicans, Marriage Equality New York, American Civil Liberties Union, New York Civil Liberties Union, Queer Rising.

For this success, a strategic, coordinated and aggressive legislative advocacy effort was made by these and other LGBT civil rights organizations. It may have been one of the largest legislative advocacy efforts in New York state history and the largest field campaign ever in support of state gay rights legislation. An unprecedented, 30 full-time field organizers were employed by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which generated more than 150,000 constituent contacts to targeted legislators.

HRC also created “New Yorkers for Marriage Equality,” a video campaign, which featured more than 40 iconic New Yorkers ranging from President Bush’s daughter Barbara Bush, to Russell Simmons advocating for marriage equality. The coalition, New Yorkers United for Marriage, raised $2 million that was used to advocate for marriage equality. HRC spent more than $1 million for their New York efforts.

History
The Civil Suits for Same-sex Marriage
Reactions to New York’s Marriage Equality
License Procedures
NY Government Web Sites
Divorce
Legal Marriage Rights and Responsibilities
Warnings: Marriage Law Pitfalls

History

  • In October 2004, State Comptroller Alan Hevesi indicated that the state’s retirement system would recognize same-sex marriages performed outside New York State for purposes of state retirement and pension benefits. Not long thereafter, mayor Michael Bloomberg stated that he would ask that the city’s five pension systems recognize domestic partnerships, civil unions, and same-sex marriages of city employees performed in other jurisdictions (at the time: Massachusetts, Canada, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Oregon, Maine, Hawaii, Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin, Connecticut, California, D.C., and Washington). These decisions were challenged in court.

  • On February 12, 2004, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom’s begin solemnizing same-sex civil marriage ceremonies, which California did not recognize.

  • On February 27, 2004, New Paltz village mayor Jason West officiated the civil marriage of 25 same-sex couples before a cheering crowd in front of the New Paltz Village Hall. Even though the village did not attempt to issue wedding licenses — New York couples have six months from the wedding to seek a license — the Ulster County District Attorney charged West with 19 misdemeanors.

    On March 5, 2004, New York state judge Vincent Bradley issued a temporary restraining order barring mayor West from performing same-sex marriage ceremonies for a month. West indicated he would abide by the judicial order while evaluating his legal options.

    Liberty Counsel — a radical, anti-gay hate group — filed a civil lawsuit challenging the validity of the marriages. Soon after, on June 6, 2004, J. Michael Bruhn, an Ulster County Supreme Court judge, made the temporary restraining order against Mayor West permanent. Judge Bruhn ruled in favor of the state, reinstating the charges against West, arguing that this criminal case did not concern whether the state constitution mandates same-sex marriage, but rather whether West violated his oath of office in performing “illegal” marriages.

    On June 10, 2004, a New Paltz Town Court Justice dismissed the charges against Mayor West, ruling that the district attorney had failed to show that the state had a legitimate interest in preventing the marriages, or that the law under which West was charged was constitutional. The district attorney said that he would appeal the ruling, and also indicated that he intended to continue forward with charges against the Unitarian Universalist ministers who had also solemnized same-sex weddings.

    The May 2005 charges against West were reinstated, and then dropped by the prosecutor on July 12.

  • On February 27, 2004, Nyack village’s mayor John Shields said he would recognize same-sex marriages from New Paltz and elsewhere. On March 3, 2004, Shields announces that he will begin officiating at same-sex marriages, and that he and his fiancé would join other gay and lesbian New Yorkers in seeking marriage licenses from municipal clerks’ offices.

  • On March 1, 2004, Ithaca mayor Carolyn K. Peterson declared that she would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

  • On March 3, 2004, New York’s attorney general Eliot Spitzer, issued an “informal opinion” stating that municipal clerks should not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples since the New York State Legislature had not intended for the Domestic Relations Law to cover same-sex couples. The same opinion states that same-sex marriages performed elsewhere were recognizable in New York state under a recent judicial decision recognizing the validity of a Vermont Civil Union as granting the benefits of marriage, Langan v. St. Vincent’s Hospital, 196 Misc. 2d 440 (N.Y. Misc., 2003)(later overturned).

  • On March 15, 2004, two Unitarian Universalist ministers, who had been performing same-sex weddings in mayor West’s stead were charged with 13 counts of solemnizing a marriage without a license by District Attorney Williams.

  • On March 20, 2004, six Unitarian Universalist ministers — including one of the two ministers charged earlier — defy the District Attorney by performing 25 more same-sex marriage ceremonies in New Paltz.

    On July 13, 2004, another New Paltz Town Court Justice dismissed all of the charges against the Unitarian Universalist ministers, largely because the district attorney had failed to show that the state had a legitimate interest in preventing the marriages, or that the law under which West was charged was constitutional.

  • On March 22, 2004, following an opinion requested in January from their attorney, the Rochester city council announced that Rochester will recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Rochester is across Lake Ontario from Toronto, where same-sex marriages have been legal since 2003.

  • On October 8, 2004, the state comptroller, Alan G. Hevesi, indicated in a letter to a state employee that the state retirement system will recognize same-sex marriages contracted elsewhere for the purposes of retirement benefits for New York state employees.

  • On February 4, 2005, State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan ruled that New York City could not deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, based on the equal protection clause of the state’s constitution. The order was stayed for 30 days, pending an appeal.

  • On December 8, 2005, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court overturned Ling-Cohan’s decision.

  • A trial judge ruled, in 2006, that Monroe Community College did not have to extend health benefits to an employee’s same-sex spouse. Monroe County subsequently moved to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals, however, the Court of Appeals refused to hear the case on May 6, 2008, allowing the ruling to stand. In November 2008, Monroe County announced that it would not pursue further appeals.

  • Shortly after attorney general Spitzer’s 2004 opinion was issued, five lawsuits were filed contesting the constitutionality of New York’s opposite-sex definition of marriage. The cases were eventually rolled into one and heard by the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, on May 31, 2006.

  • On July 6, 2006, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, ruled that same-sex partners did not have the right to marry under the New York Constitution. In its Hernández v. Robles decision it declined to judicially mandate the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York.

  • During his successful campaign for governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer stated he would push to legalize same-sex marriage if elected, and he proposed such legislation on April 27, 2007.

  • On May 2007, a Massachusetts trial court judge rules that marriage licenses obtained by New York same-sex couples prior to the Hernandez v. Robles decision are valid under Massachusetts law. As a result, these couples’ marriages are also valid under New York State law.

  • On June 19, 2007, the Democrat controlled New York State Assembly approves governor Spitzer’s bill to legalize same-sex 85–61. The bill moved to the Republican-controlled Senate, where majority leader Joseph L. Bruno stated that it would not be voted upon in that chamber this year.

  • On December 27, 2007, in a Matter of Langan v. State Farm Fire & Cas., the Appellate Division, Third Department held that parties to civil unions from other states are not entitled to make claims as surviving spouses under New York’s Workers’ Compensation Law; the court also held that the relevant provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Law are not unconstitutional.

  • On January 9, 2008, governor Spitzer’s bill to legalize same-sex marriage dies in the New York State Senate and is returned to the New York State Assembly.

  • On February 1, 2008, in Martinez v. County of Monroe, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department ruled that a same-sex marriage in Canada should be recognized in New York, because out-of-state opposite-sex marriages that would not have been legal in New York nonetheless are recognized unless such recognition would violate the public policy of the state. The Appellate Division held that the same treatment must be applied to out-of-state same-sex marriages, but the ruling could be overturned on a finding that same-sex marriage violates New York’s public policy. The decision also reverses a trial judge’s 2006 ruling that Monroe Community College did not have to extend health benefits to an employee’s same-sex spouse.

    On May 6, 2008, the Court of Appeals declined to hear Monroe County’s appeal. On November 22, 2008, Monroe County announced that it would not pursue any further appeals of the Appellate Division’s decision.

  • On April 2008, governor David Alexander Paterson pledges that he will continue to push for full marriage equality for LGBT New Yorkers.

    On May 29, 2008, it was widely reported that governor Paterson directed all state agencies to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

    On June 3, 2008, governor Paterson’s directive was challenged as both premature and unconstitutional in an Article 78 proceeding filed by the Alliance Defense Fund — a radical, anti-gay hate group — on behalf of several state legislators and conservative leaders in New York.

    By September 2, 2008, the Alliance suit is dismissed in State Supreme Court in the Bronx, with a finding that governor Patterson acted within his powers when he required state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages from outside NY State. On September 8, 2008, the Alliance appeals Judge Billings’ decision.

  • On May 29, 2008, governor David Paterson directed all New York State agencies to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Governor Paterson’s directive cited the Appellate Division decision in the Martinez case, as well as several lower court rulings.

    As a result of the governor’s directive, New York became the first state that, while not allowing same-sex marriages, recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. In addition, same-sex couples in New York have the option to travel to states where same-sex marriage is possible to get married and have their marriages fully recognized by New York State agencies.

    Governor Paterson’s directive was challenged as both premature and unconstitutional in an Article 78 proceeding filed on June 3, 2008, against governor Paterson by the Alliance Defense Fund — a radical, anti-gay hate group — on behalf of several state legislators and conservative leaders; this lawsuit failed at all levels.

    On September 2, 2008, Justice Lucy A. Billings, of the State Supreme Court in Bronx, New York, issued a decision that governor Paterson acted within his powers when he required state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages from outside the state. Justice Billings found that the governor’s order was consistent with state laws on the recognition of marriages from other jurisdictions. This decision was appealed. The Court of Appeals agreed to hear this and another case on same-sex marriage recognition in 2009. The Court decided these cases on narrow grounds, finding that the state acted within its authority without reaching the issue of marriage recognition. However, a three-justice minority would have ruled more broadly in support of marriage recognition.

    The courts have continued to rule that out-of-state same-sex marriages are valid. In particular, they authorized same-sex divorces and conferring inheritance rights.

  • On April 9, 2008, the new governor David Alexander Paterson (former Lieutenant Governor of New York) pledged that he would continue to push for same-sex marriage legislation. The new governor said he was “proud to have run on a ticket with now former governor Eliot Spitzer that was the first in the country to advocate for marriage equality and to win on that premise.” “We will push on and bring full marriage equality in New York State,” Paterson said.

  • On November 4, 2008, the Democratic Party gained a majority in the New York State Senate. Following the elections, three dissenting Senate Democrats declined to assure Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith that they would vote for him as Senate Majority Leader when the Senate convened in January 2009. In December 2008, an agreement was allegedly reached between Senator Smith and the so-called “Gang of Three.” Reportedly, as part of the deal, Senator Smith agreed not to bring same-sex marriage legislation to a Senate floor vote during the 2009–2010 legislative session.

    However, on December 10, 2008, Senator Smith announced that the agreement with three Democratic dissidents had been abandoned, and confirmed that he would not pledge to hold off on a same-sex marriage bill in the upcoming session. Senator Smith’s decision placed control of the Senate by Democrats in doubt, jeopardizing the passage of same-sex marriage legislation because Senate Republican leadership is opposed to such legislation. After reaching an agreement with three Democratic dissidents, Malcolm Smith was voted Senate Majority Leader on January 7, 2009.

  • The New York City Comptroller’s office issued an updated economic analysis in May 2009 finding that New York State’s economy could gain $210 million in the three years immediately following the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples.

  • On April 16, 2009, governor Paterson officially introduced marriage legislation and vows to push for its passage.

    On May 12, 2009, the New York State Assembly passed same-sex marriage legislation in a bipartisan vote of 89–52.

    Later in 2009, Sen. Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan) claimed that he had lined up support from a sufficient number of Senators to pass same-sex marriage legislation. Senator Malcolm Smith stated he would not put the bill to a vote until he was sure it would pass.

    The bill was not debated and voted upon until December 2, 2009. The same-sex marriage legislation was defeated 38-24. No Republican voted yes, eight Democrats voted no.

    On June 8, 2009, governor Paterson taped former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno to speak up for same-sex marriage.

    On November 10, 2009, the New York State Senate began a special session regarding the economy of the state, and take a vote on same-sex marriage. Later that day, the vote was postponed until the end of the year. Thirty-two Democrats formed the majority in the Senate, but several Democrats refrained from commenting or opposed the bill, meaning several Republicans would be required for the 32-member support the bill would need if it was to become law.

    On December 2, 2009, the Assembly again passed the same-sex marriage bill, 88–51, but the state Senate voted down the bill, 38-24.

    On May 10, 2011, assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell introduced the same-sex marriage bill.

    On June 15, 2011, the Assembly passes the same-sex marriage bill for the fourth time, by a vote of 80–63.

    On June 24, 2011 — after negotiations between Republican members of the Senate and governor Andrew Cuomo, regarding protections against discrimination lawsuits for religious groups and non-profit organizations — a same-sex marriage bill known as the Marriage Equality Act passed the State Senate by 33–29. Twenty-nine Democrats and four Republicans voted in favor. The governor signed the measure the same night, allowing the law to go into effect on July 24, 2011.

Reactions to New York’s Marriage Equality

New York Times - Editorial

Gay Marriage: A Milestone

New York State has made a powerful and principled choice by giving all couples the right to wed and enjoy the legal rights of marriage. It is a proud moment for New Yorkers, thousands of whom took to the streets on Sunday to celebrate this step forward. But this moment does not erase the bigotry against gays and lesbians enshrined in the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and allows any state to refuse to recognize another state’s unions.

Though there was unnecessary secrecy in the negotiations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a determined effort to achieve marriage equality in New York. He shares credit with the four Republican state senators who bucked their party and threats from conservatives to do what they knew was right. State Senators James Alesi, Roy McDonald, Mark Grisanti and Stephen Saland, all from upstate districts, deserve the support of their communities. They showed the kind of strength that is extremely hard to find in today’s politics.

In drafting a compromise, however, Senator Saland and other Republicans insisted on language that carves out exceptions for religious institutions and not-for-profit corporations affiliated with those religious entities. That provision allows those tax-exempt entities to refuse to marry a same-sex couple or to allow the use of their buildings or services for weddings or wedding parties. There was simply no need for these exemptions, since churches are protected under both the federal Constitution and New York law from being required to marry anyone against their beliefs. Equally troubling, an “inseverability clause” in the act appears to make it impossible for any court to invalidate part of the law without invalidating the whole law — raising questions about what happens to couples during an appeal.

While some civil rights advocates are optimistic that these provisions are relatively minor, we are deeply troubled by their discriminatory intent. The whole purpose of this law should be to expand civil rights without shedding other protections in the process.

This legislative session will be remembered for New York’s acceptance of same-sex marriage, a milestone in the national fight for this fundamental freedom. Five other states, along with the District of Columbia, allow same-sex couples to marry. But more than three dozen states define marriage as between a man and a woman. For gays and lesbians, the battle for freedom from discrimination continues.”

June 26, 2011

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman -
On passage of the marriage equality legislation

Today’s historic legislation on marriage equality is a resounding victory for justice. This vote means that every man and woman will be treated equally in the county clerks’ offices, the courts, and the administrative agencies of the state of New York. It means that every single New Yorker will have access to the full rights and responsibilities that come with a marriage license.

At our founding, what made America different from every other country that existed before was a commitment to an ideal that had never been advanced – that all are created equal, endowed by their Creator with the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our history as a nation has been one of striving to make those words ever more true. Today, our state rose to the challenge, and New York, once again, has carried on this great American tradition.

My deepest thanks and congratulations to all who worked so hard to make this happen: Governor Cuomo, the Legislature, Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and the thousands of other advocates. We have made history.”

June 24, 2011

Marriage Equality Press Conference
Andrew Cuomo, New York State Governor

Click here for an extended version.

What this state said today brings this discussion of marriage equality to a new plane. That’s the power and the beauty of New York. The other states look to New York for the progressive direction.

We reached a new level of social justice this evening — marriage equality.

And I thank the advocacy community, that came together from all across the nation, and worked as one. They were sophisticated, smart and constructive in their effort. It was my pleasure to work with them.

I am always proud to be a New Yorker, but tonight I am especially proud to be a New Yorker.

June 24, 2011 - Press Conference from the governer’s office, Albany

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo -
Letter to New Yorkers: Marriage Equality for All New Yorkers

Progress in New York State has always turned on the right side of history, but for too long we lagged behind on the issue of marriage equality. Governor Cuomo believed this issue came down to a question of fairness and civil rights. The Governor worked alongside an unprecedented, bipartisan coalition of organizations and supporters to build momentum in every region of the state for passage of marriage equality legislation. With the world watching, the Legislature passed marriage equality at the end of the legislative session, making New York the largest state to legalize marriage for all of its citizens. With this legislation, we have finally torn down the barrier that has prevented same-sex couples from exercising the freedom to marry and we have reclaimed our position as a progressive leader of the nation.

June 29, 2011 - Albany, NY



The Civil Suits for Same-sex Marriage

Hernández v. Robles
  • March 5, 2004: Five same-sex couples, backed by Lambda Legal, filed suit challenging the constitutionality of limiting marriage to only opposite-sex couples. The complaint relied on both equal protection and due process claims.
  • February 4, 2005: New York County Supreme Court Judge Doris Ling-Cohan issued an opinion in Hernández v. Robles ruling that the New York State Constitution guaranteed basic rights to gays and lesbians, which the state violates when it prevents them from marrying. Ling-Cohan stayed her ruling for a 30-day period, giving the state time to appeal.
  • September 13, 2005: Oral arguments were heard by the Appellate Division (First Judicial Department).
  • December 8, 2005: The Appellate Division (First Judicial Department) reversed the trial court with one dissent in a 4–1 decision that said the issue should be handled by the legislature.
  • May 31, 2006: Oral arguments were heard by the New York State Court of Appeals (New York's highest court).
  • July 6, 2006: The Court of Appeals issued a 4–2 decision upholding New York’s existing marriage statutes and declining to judicially mandate the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York. The Court ruling stated that same-sex partners do not have the right to marry each other under the New York Constitution.
Shields v. Madigan
  • March 11, 2004: Ten same-sex couples filed suit to obtain an order requiring their town clerk to issue them marriage licenses and the Department of Health to recognize them. If the statutory argument failed, the suit challenges the constitutionality of the Domestic Relations Law. John Shields, Mayor of Nyack, New York, is one of the parties to the suit.
  • October 18, 2004: Rockland County Supreme Court Judge Alfred J. Weiner issued an opinion in Shields v. Madigan rejecting the statutory interpretation and constitutional challenges for same-sex marriage. The Domestic Relations Law was determined to allow only opposite-sex marriages, and equal protection and due process claims were both denied.
  • March 28, 2006: Oral arguments were heard by the Appellate Division (Second Judicial Department).
  • July 6, 2006: The Court of Appeals issued a 4–2 decision in the four other marriage cases. This case became moot.
Samuels v. New York State Department of Health
  • April 7, 2004: Thirteen same-sex couples, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, file suit to have declared unconstitutional a state law that denies them marriage. Daniel O’Donnell, New York State Assemblyman (and brother of celebrity Rosie O’Donnell), is one of the parties to the suit.
  • December 7, 2004: Albany County Supreme Court Judge Joseph C. Teresi issued an opinion in Samuels v. New York State Department of Health rejecting the four constitutional claims for same-sex marriage. Equal protection based on sexual orientation, equal protection based on gender, due process, and free speech were all argued to be violated by New York’s Domestic Relations Law, but none was found to have merit.
  • October 17, 2005: Oral arguments were heard by the Appellate Division (Third Judicial Department).
  • February 16, 2006: The Appellate Division (Third Judicial Department) affirmed the trial court in a 5–0 decision that consolidated all three cases (Samuels, Seymour, and Kane) on appeal in its jurisdiction.
  • May 31, 2006: Oral arguments were heard by the New York State Court of Appeals (New York’s highest court).
  • July 6, 2006: The Court of Appeals issued a 4–2 decision upholding New York’s existing marriage statutes and declining to judicially mandate the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York. The Court’s ruling stated that same-sex partners do not have the right to marry each other under the New York Constitution.
Seymour v. Holcomb
  • June 2, 2004: Twenty-five same-sex couples, backed by the city of Ithaca, filed suit to have the Domestic Relations Law include same-sex marriage. If the law is determined not to apply to same-sex couples, the suit challenges the prohibition on a constitutional basis.
  • February 23, 2005: Tompkins County Supreme Court Judge Robert C. Mulvey issued an opinion in Seymour v. Holcomb rejecting Ithaca’s standing to sue, the statutory claim, and the constitutional claims based on equal protection, due process, and free expression.
  • October 17, 2005: Oral arguments were heard by the Appellate Division (Third Judicial Department).
  • February 16, 2006: The Appellate Division (Third Judicial Department) affirmed the trial court in a 5–0 decision that consolidated all three cases (Samuels, Seymour, and Kane) on appeal in its jurisdiction.
  • May 31, 2006: Oral arguments were heard by the New York State Court of Appeals (New York’s highest court).
  • July 6, 2006: The Court of Appeals issues a 4–2 decision upholding New York’s existing marriage statutes and declining to judicially mandate the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York. The Court’s ruling stated that same-sex partners do not have the right to marry each other under the New York Constitution.
Kane v. Marsolais
  • June 16, 2004: Two same-sex couples filed suit to obtain marriage licenses that would make official their marriage ceremonies from three months earlier. The ceremonies were held by a Unitarian Universalist Minister on March 27, 2004.
  • January 31, 2005: Albany County Supreme Court Judge E. Michael Kavanagh issued an opinion in Kane v. Marsolais rejecting both statutory and constitutional claims. The opinion also rejected the notion that their marriages were valid because of a section of the Domestic Relations Law that recognized marriages solemnized by ceremonies even if the couple failed to obtain a license. This section of the law was held only to apply to those who were legally qualified to be married.
  • October 17, 2005: Oral arguments were heard by the Appellate Division (Third Judicial Department).
  • February 16, 2006: The Appellate Division (Third Judicial Department) affirmed the trial court in a 5–0 decision that consolidated all three cases (Samuels, Seymour, and Kane) on appeal in its jurisdiction.
  • May 31, 2006: Oral arguments were heard by the New York State Court of Appeals (New York’s highest court).
  • July 6, 2006: The Court of Appeals issued a 4–2 decision upholding New York’s existing marriage statutes and declining to judicially mandate the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York. The Court’s ruling stated that same-sex partners do not have the right to marry each other under the New York Constitution.

License Procedures

Same sex couples may apply for marriage licenses using the online forms application process. Although you can apply now, marriage licenses will not be issued until the Marriage Equality Act takes effect, July 24, 2011.

A New York State Marriage License is valid for 60 days (except for active military personnel, for whom the validity runs for 180 days).

A Marriage License issued in New York can be used anywhere within New York State, but not outside New York State.

A 24 hour waiting period is required after obtaining your license, however that time may be abbreviated with a judicial waiver.

Fees

  • $35, by credit card or money order, payable to the City Clerk.
Application Process
  • You can begin the application process to receive a Marriage License online via “City Clerk Online.” This will speed up the process which then must be completed in person at the Office of the City Clerk.
  • Regardless of whether you started the application process online, or will be filling out a paper form for a Marriage License, you and your prospective spouse must complete the process by appearing at the Office of the City Clerk in person, together and at the same time.
  • Proxy marriage is not permitted in New York, so no other party may apply on behalf of either spouse.
  • You will receive the application from the information desk and you must complete the application in our office.
  • Your Marriage License will be processed while you wait.
  • You should carefully read your Marriage License to make sure there are no mistakes.
  • You will take the Marriage License with you when you leave our office.
  • You must wait a full 24 hours before your Marriage Ceremony can be performed unless you obtain a Judicial Waiver.
Required Information
  • The application is an affidavit where you and your prospective spouse must list your name; current address; city, state, ZIP code and country; country of birth; date of birth; name and country of birth of your parents; Social Security number; and marital history.
  • When you sign the affidavit, you are making a sworn statement that there are no legal impediments to the marriage.
  • If you were married before, you must list all prior marriages. You must include your previous spouse’s full name; the date the divorce decree was granted; and the city, state, and country where the divorce was issued.
  • All divorces, annulments, and dissolutions must be finalized before you apply for a new Marriage License.
  • You may be asked to produce the final divorce decree.
  • If your spouse is deceased, you must provide such spouse's full name and date of death.
Proper Identification
You and your prospective spouse must have proper identification in order to apply for a Marriage License.
Blood Test Not Required
A blood test is not required to obtain a Marriage License in the State of New York.
Name Change Options
  • Various surname options are listed on the back of the application.
  • You must state your choice of surname on the application. If you elect to make a surname change on your application, the surname change takes legal effect at the conclusion of the Marriage Ceremony.
  • The name change option does not apply to your first name or middle name.
  • If you wish to change your surname through this office after your Marriage Ceremony, you must remarry.
  • Although you may correct mistakes in your Certificate of Marriage Registration, a surname choice is not considered a mistake and cannot be changed through our Amendment process.
Duplicate Marriage License
  • If the Marriage License is lost, stolen, or mutilated, you must obtain a Duplicate Marriage License in order to get married.
  • The fee for a Duplicate Marriage License is $25 by credit card or money order payable to the City Clerk.
  • Either prospective spouse may apply for a Duplicate Marriage License by returning to the office that issued the original Marriage License and completing a Duplicate Marriage License affidavit.
Under the Age of Eighteen

If younger than 18, you must have written parental consent to obtain a Marriage License.

  • Please be prepared to show proof of your date of birth. You may show one of the following forms of identification to prove your age:
    • original or certified copy of birth certificate,
    • baptismal record,
    • passport,
    • driver license,
    • naturalization record, or
    • court records.
  • Both of your parents must be present to consent and have proper identification at the time of application for the Marriage License and at the Marriage Ceremony if the ceremony is performed in our offices.
  • If one parent is deceased, the surviving parent must appear and a death certificate for the deceased parent must be produced.
  • If both parents are deceased, the legal guardian must appear instead.
  • If either prospective spouse is under the age of sixteen years, in addition to parental consent, the written approval of a Judge of the Supreme Court or Family Court is needed.
  • A person under the age of fourteen years cannot be married.
Judicial Waiver
  • A 24 hour waiting period after you and your prospective spouse obtain your license is required by New York State Law.
  • In the event that you and your prospective spouse must marry before the 24 hour waiting period is over, you can request permission from a Judge to waive this requirement.
  • You can request a Judicial Waiver from the County Clerk in the county (borough) where you obtained your Marriage License. Learn more about County Clerks.
  • There is no fee to obtain a Judicial Waiver.
  • Give the Judicial Waiver to your Marriage Officiant to enable them to perform the ceremony within the 24 hour waiting period.
  • The Marriage Officiant must attach the Judicial Waiver when returning the Marriage License to our office.


New York Government Marriage Web Sites

        Getting Married in New York State
        Information.

        New York City Marriage Bureau
        License Applications, Information.

        New York City Marriage License
        Fees, Application Procedure, Same Sex Marriage Information.

        Divorce Information and Frequently Asked Questions


Divorce

Grounds

  • Cruel and inhuman treatment (Domestic Relations Law §170.1)
  • Abandonment for a continuous period of one year or more (DRL §170.2)
  • Imprisonment for more than three years subsequent to the marriage (DRL §170.3)
  • Adultery (DRL §170.4)
  • Conversion of a separation judgment (DRL §170.5)
  • Conversion of a written and acknowledged separation agreement after living separate and apart for more than one year (DRL §170.6)
  • The relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months (DRL §170.7)
Residency requirements
  • The marriage ceremony was performed in New York and either spouse is a resident of the state at the time of the commencement of the action for divorce and resided in the state for a continuous period of one year immediately before the action began.
  • The couple lived as husband and wife in New York and either spouse is a resident of the state at the time of the commencement of the action for divorce and resided in this state for a continuous period of one year immediately before the action began.
  • The grounds for divorce occurred in New York and either spouse is a resident of the state at the time of the commencement of the action for divorce and resided in the state for a continuous period of one year immediately before the action began.
  • The grounds for divorce occurred in New York and both spouses are New York residents at the time the action is commenced.
  • If the parties were married outside of New York and have never lived together as husband and wife in the state and the grounds for divorce did not occur in New York then, one spouse must presently be a resident of New York and have resided continuously in the state for at least two years prior to filing an action for divorce.

    Residing "continuously" in the state does not mean that the party can not have left the state during the period of residency nor does it mean that the party does not have another residence elsewhere outside New York.


Legal Marriage Rights and Responsibilities

Sample Rights

  • Emergency medical care and hospital visitation
  • Economic protections upon death of a spouse, such as inheritance rights
  • Burial, autopsies, and disposition of remains
  • Wrongful death and other kinds of claims that depend upon spousal status
  • Receive workers’ compensation benefits if a spouse dies in the workplace
  • Health insurance and pension benefits for spouses of public employees
  • May file joint state tax returns, take spousal deductions on state income taxes, and receive tax benefits when transferring interests in property
  • Separation, divorce, and caring for any children of the couple
  • Liability for your spouse’s debts
  • Limitations on your ability to make decisions about your property and who will inherit from you
  • Obligations to provide support for your spouse during both marriage and divorce

Warnings: Marriage Law Pitfalls

Military

Until the unconstitutional “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is completely removed, the armed services would likely consider marriage to a same-sex spouse as grounds for a discharge.

Immigration

Since the federal system does not recognize same-sex couples, or their legal marriages, getting married does not offer a route to applying for immigration.

There currently is no process that allows a same-sex partner to sponsor a partner for immigration to the U.S. There is no process that allows an individual to sponsor their same-sex partner to become a "Permanent Legal Resident." In the eyes of the American federal system, same-sex couples are legal strangers.

Non-New York Residents

Partners who are not New York citizens may be married in New York.

However, because many state laws forbid recognition of another state’s same-sex legal marriage license, a civil marriage license would have little or no legal meaning.

Also, it is possible that a New York couple would get married, then move elsewhere. While it is certain that the federal system will refuse to recognize the license, it is now known that most states will likewise refuse to recognize it.

In the Event of a Couple Parting

New York divorce requires a 1-year residency.

If you live in a state that does not honor your marriage — which may not be determined until requesting something usually triggered by a marriage license — the state courts will also be unlikely to grant you a divorce.

The ability to divorce is critical. Besides the emotional reasons to dissolve a no longer functioning union, there are legal entanglements to consider. For instance, should one of the partners form a new relationship, they would not be able to sign up their new partner for workplace benefits. Most employers require an affidavit that stipulates that the partners are not married to anyone else, or have another domestic partner.




Governments that offer Full Legal Marriage
Nations

    Netherlands (2001)
    Belgium (2003)
    Canada (2005)
    Spain (2005)
    South Africa (2005)
    Norway (2009)
    Sweden (2009)
    Iceland (2010)
    Argentina (2010)
    Portugal (2010)
    Denmark (2012)
    France (2013)
    New Zealand (2013)
    Brazil (2013)
    Uruguay (2013)
    New Zealand (2013)
    United Kingdom
      (England, Wales, Scotland) (2013)
    Luxembourg (2014)
    Finland (2014)
    Ireland (2015)
    United States (2015)
    Colombia (2016)
    Germany (2017)
    Taiwan (2017)
    Malta (2017)
US States & Territories

    Massachusetts (2004)
    California (2008)
    Connecticut (2008)
    Iowa (2009)
    Vermont (2009)
    New Hampshire (2009)
    District of Columbia (2009)
    New York (2011)
    Maine (2012)
    Washington (2012)
    Maryland (2013)
    Rhode Island (2013)
    Delaware (2013)
    Minnesota (2013)
    Illinois (2013)
    Utah (2013)
    New Jersey (2013)
    Hawaii (2013)
    New Mexico (2013)
    Michigan (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Oregon (2014)
    Wisconsin (2014)
    

    Arkansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Pennsylvania (2014)
    Indiana (2014)
    Nevada (2014)
    Virginia (2014)
    Oklahoma (2014)
    Idaho (2014)
    West Virginia (2014)
    Alaska (2014)
    Arizona (2014)
    Wyoming (2014)
    Kansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Florida (2014)
    Colorado (2014)
    North Carolina (2014)
    South Carolina (2014)
    Montana (2014)
    Alabama (2015)
    U.S. Supreme Court (June 26, 2015):
      Ruling: All U.S. States must now
      allow same-sex couples the
      freedom of legal marriage.
Native American Tribes

    Coquille Tribe, Oregon (2009)
    Mashantucket Pequot, Connecticut (2011)
    Suquamish Tribe, Washington (2011)
    Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington (2013)
    Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota (2013)
    Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan (2013)
    Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan (2013)
    Santa Ysabel Tribe, California (2013)
    Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation, Washington (2013)
    Cheyenne, Oklahoma (2013)
    Arapaho, Oklahoma (2013)
    Leech Lake Tribal Court, Minnesota (2013)
    Puyallup Tribe, Washington (2914)
    Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming (2014)
    Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan, (2014)
    Colville Confederated Tribes, Washington (2014)
    Central Council of Tlingit, Alaska (2015)
    Haida Indian Tribes, Alaska (2015)

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