Will New York Supreme Court Back Up Gov. David Paterson?


New York Gov. David Paterson has already ordered state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in states where it’s legal — a major stepping stone for New York’s own equal rights efforts. Now the New York State Supreme Court could follow up on the governor’s wishes by backing him, or throwing out his logic with two cases it agreed to hear involving out-of-state gay unions.

One case, Godfrey v. Spano, stems from the Westchester County executive’s 2006 decision to begin officially honoring out-of-state marriage licenses for gay couples the same way it did for heterosexual couples.

The other case, Lewis v. New York State Department of Civil Service, was filed after the department agreed in 2007 to begin recognizing out-of-state, same-sex marriages for the purpose of extending health insurance to spouses of public employees.

Brian Raum, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, said Tuesday that the group believed that the Court of Appeals would reverse the lower courts in both cases.

“We’re confident that we’re on the right side of the law,” he said. “The law in New York states it will not recognize marriages that conflict with public policy in New York. Since New York only recognizes marriage between one man and one woman, for any court to recognize same-sex marriage would be to recognize marriages that run contrary to New York law.”

Susan Sommer, senior counsel from Lambda Legal, a gay rights group that is representing Westchester County and the civil service department, said she had hoped the court would decide not to hear the cases, but added that she was optimistic it would not rule against same-sex couples.