Because J. Craig Leiby and H. Kenneth Ranftle were legally married in Canada, a New York State judge ruled Leiby is entitled to inherit the estate of Ranftle, who died of lung cancer in 2008, just months after of their wedding. The ruling treats Leiby as a legal spouse, and denies an attempt from Ranftle’s brother to block Leiby.
One of Ranftle’s brothers, Richard, sought to contest the will and challenged the legitimacy of the marriage, saying it violated public policy in New York. The will left most of the estate to Leiby, with bequests to Richard Ranftle, other brothers and a goddaughter. “New York’s long-settled marriage recognition rule affords comity to out-of-state marriages” that are valid where they are made, the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division wrote. There are exceptions for marriages that violate New York statutes or “natural law,” sometimes interpreted to mean such situations as polygamy and incest. But “same-sex marriage does not fall within either of the two exceptions,” the appeals judges wrote.