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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New York

During years 2000 - 2007

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2000-MAY-21: State Democratic committee:

The committee decided to study the issue of state recognition of same-sex relationships. Lawrence Moss, chairperson of the party's reform caucus said: "We believe it's a fundamental rights issue. We believe the time for it has come." State Senate Republican spokesman John McArdle said a civil-union bill "is not something we'd advocate."

2000-AUG-17: More discussions:

Southern Voice reported that same-sex unions or marriages were being actively discussed by Democrats in at least four states, including New York. They reported that State Senator Tom Duane (D-Manhattan) considered introducing a civil union bill when his legislature reconvened.

2006-MAY: Appeal to the Court of Appeals:

Four cases involving Daniel Hernandez, et al., Sylvia Samuels, et al., Elissa Kane, et al., and Jason Seymour, et al. were heard by the Court of Appeals. The cases, #86 to 89, involved 44 couples who attempted to obtain marriage licenses at various locations in New York state and were refused. They launched a total of four lawsuits. Rulings by the Supreme Court, and later by the Appellate Division were mixed.

Their cases were combined and heard together by the Court of Appeals. 1

2006-JUL-07: Court says right to marry does not exist:

The Court of Appeals had heard arguments favoring marriage equity in 2006-MAY.

Glen Lavy, of the Alliance Defense Fund, a fundamentalist Christian legal support group, said:

"I don't have a crystal ball. You don't know what the rule is going to be, but I did not think the court was going to reverse the decision because of how strong the lower court decisions were. We keep hearing from the opponents to redefine marriage that they have a clear legal trend moving their way. But really what we have is a clear trend moving the other way. We only have one clear court that is an outlier - and that's Massachusetts." 2

The court ruled that the state's "one-man, one-woman" definition of marriage did not violate the constitutional rights of same-sex couples. They also stated than any provision of SSM in the state would have to be made by the legislature.

bullet Jay Weiser is a law professor at Baruch University who helped write a brief in support of same-sex marriage for the New York City Bar Association. He said that:

"New York's decision is a fairly narrow view of what guarantees the state constitution provides.... So far, the courts are mixed but the majority of cases have passed defense of marriage or constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriages."

bullet Alan Van Capelle, executive director of The Empire State Pride Agenda, a New York state gay-positive civil liberties group, said:

"This community has never been handed anything for free. I know that winning marriage will be a long battle ... and the gay community has the stamina to win gay marriage in New York."

Immediately after the court's decision Eliot Spitzer said that he would submit a bill to legalize SSM in New York State if he becomes governor.

2007-APR-26: Poll indicates support for SSM:

Crain, a New York publisher of business magazines, conducted an online poll of New York business persons about SSM. Results were:

bullet 63% favored a same-sex marriage law.
bullet 19% favored a civil union law that would give same-sex couples the same state rights as married couples, without the name "marriage."
bullet 18% favored the governor government recognizing opposite-sex couples only as roommtes.

N = 1,022; margin of error: 3.5%

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2007-APR-27: Governor Eliot Spitzer introduces SSM bill:

Eliot Spitzer (D) won the election for governor during 2006-NOV. As he promised, on APR-27, he filed a bill in the Assembly and Senate which would legalize SSM in New York State. The bill was filed at the office of Sheldon Silver (D), Speaker of the Assembly. He had not taken a personal position on SSM and left its promotion up to the Democratic caucus. The bill was also filed at the office of Joseph L. Bruno, the Majority Leader in the Senate, who strongly opposes equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The bill had little chance of success at the time.

Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the gay-positive Empire State Pride Agenda said: "Today is a watershed moment." During 2006-fall, he estimated that 35 Assembly members and 14 Senators supported SSM. By 2007-APR, he estimates support from 61 Assembly members and 18 Senators. (76 Assembly members and 32 Senators would be required to pass the bill.) 3

The bill passed the Assembly during 2007 by a vote of 85 to 61, but died in the Senate. 5

2007-APR-27: Married state employees to receive benefits:

The State Department of Civil Service ruled that legally married same-sex spouses of state employees will be granted medical and other benefits administered through its Employee Benefits Division. Included will be employees of New York State, its municipalities, and school districts.

Alan Van Capelle, of  Empire State Pride Agenda said:

"Over the past several years, thousands of same-sex couples have traveled out-of-state to get legally married and have asked their employers to fully respect their marriage. The NYS Retirement System has done this." 3

Most of the eligible employees and their spouses were married in Massachusetts or Canada. There may be others who have married in Belgium, The Netherlands, South Africa, or Spain.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Text of the Court of Appeals' ruling is at:
  2. Ron Scherer, "Two states say 'no' to gay marriage," Christian Science Monitor, 2006-JUL-07, at:
  3. "Spitzer Files Gay Marriage Bill,", 2007-APR-27, at:
  4. David Jones, "Spitzer has support on gay marriage: poll," New York Business, 2007-APR-26, at:
  5. "New York governor to propose legalizing same-sex marriage," CNN, 2009-APR-14, at:

Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > NY > here

Copyright 2007 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-APR-30
Latest update: 2009-APR-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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