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Kramer Levin Helps Secure Another Appellate Decision Respecting the Marriages of Same-Sex Couples

January 22, 2009

A New York appellate court has upheld a New York State Department of Civil Services (DCS) policy requiring that the valid marriages of same-sex couples be respected for purposes of providing State-sponsored spousal health insurance benefits. The Appellate Division, Third Department affirmed the ruling of a lower court that dismissed a lawsuit brought by a conservative religious organization seeking to have the DCS policy nullified. Plaintiffs had argued that DCS acted illegally in changing its prior policy denying such recognition. The proceeding, Lewis v. New York State Department of Civil Services, was defended both by the DCS and by same-sex spouses who intervened as defendants, represented by Kramer Levin and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

The Third Department held that the DCS policy directive was consistent with New York’s strong common law rule requiring respect for out-of-state marriages that are valid where performed, such as the Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Canadian marriages of same-sex couples. The Third Department expressly rejected Plaintiffs’ arguments that marriages of same-sex couples cannot be considered “marriages” at all and therefore are not protected by the common law rule and that New York’s public policy “abhors” the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages.

Kramer Levin partners Jeffrey S. Trachtman and Norman C. Simon and associates Joshua Glick and Jason M. Moff worked with Lambda Legal on this matter. The firm has worked with Lambda Legal on several other marriage recognition cases and was co-counsel in Hernandez v. Robles, which sought equal marriage rights for same sex couples under the New York constitution.

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