4th Dept App Div Declares Canadian Gay Marriage Valid for Benefits in New York

Patricia Martinez v. County of Monroe, 1562 CA 06-02591 (43-05)

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“[A]bsent any New York statute expressing clearly the Legislature’s intent to regulate within this State marriages of its domiciliaries solemnized abroad, there is no positive law in this jurisdiction” to prohibit recognition of a marriage that would have been invalid if solemnized in New York (May, 305 NY at 493 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see also Van Voorhis, 86 NY at 37). The Legislature has not enacted legislation to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages validly entered into outside of New York, and we thus conclude that the positive law exception to the general rule of foreign marriage recognition is not applicable in this case.

The natural law exception also is not applicable. That exception has generally been limited to marriages involving polygamy or incest or marriages “offensive to the public sense of morality to a degree regarded generally with abhorrence” (May, 305 NY at 493), and that cannot be said here.

Defendants nevertheless contend that recognition of plaintiff’s same-sex marriage is contrary to the public policy of New York, as articulated by the Court of Appeals in Hernandez v Robles (7 NY3d 338), and thus falls within an exception to the rule requiring recognition of valid foreign marriages. We reject that contention. Hernandez does not articulate the public policy for which it is cited by defendants, but instead holds merely that the New York State Constitution does not compel recognition of same-sex marriages solemnized in New York (see id. at 356). The Court of Appeals noted that the Legislature may enact legislation recognizing same-sex marriages (see id. at 358-359) and, in our view, the Court of Appeals thereby indicated that the recognition of plaintiff’s marriage is not against the public policy of New York. It is also worth noting that, unlike the overwhelming majority of states, New York has not chosen, pursuant to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (28 USC § 1738C), to enact legislation denying full faith and credit to same-sex marriages validly solemnized in another state.

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Background from Jurist:
In June, the New York State Assembly passed a bill [A08590 materials; JURIST report] to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill, proposed by New York Governor Eliot Spitzer [official website] and sponsored[press release] by Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell [official website], was defeated by the Republican controlled Senate and returned to the Assembly last month. The New York Times has more. The Democrat and Chronicle has additional coverage. 
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