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The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, VA – May 29, 2008
By Jeremy Peters
The New York Times

ALBANY, N.Y. New York Gov. David Paterson has directed all state agencies to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same- sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, such as Massachusetts, California and Canada.
In a directive issued May 14, the governor’s legal counsel, David Nocenti, instructed the agencies that gay couples married elsewhere “should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union.”
The revisions are most likely to involve as many as 1,300 statutes and regulations in New York governing everything from joint filing of income tax returns to transferring fishing licenses between spouses.
The move, which Paterson also mentioned in a videotaped message given to gay community leaders at a dinner May 17, was viewed by people on both sides of the issue as a major step toward legalizing same-sex unions in the state.
“Very shortly, there will be hundreds and hundreds and hundreds, and probably thousands and thousands and thousands, of gay people who have their marriages recognized by the state,” said Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, a Democrat who represents the Upper West Side of Manhattan and has pushed for legalization of gay unions.
Massachusetts and California are the only states that have legalized gay marriage. Same-sex couples will be able to wed in California beginning June 17, according to a state directive issued Wednesday. Other states, including New Jersey and Vermont, allow civil unions. Forty-one states, including Virginia, have laws limiting marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Legal experts said Paterson’s decision would make New York the only state that did not itself allow gay marriage but fully recognized same-sex unions entered into elsewhere.
The directive is the strongest signal yet that Paterson, who developed strong ties to the gay community as a legislator, plans to push aggressively to legalize same-sex unions as governor. His predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, introduced a bill last year that would have legalized gay marriage, but even as he submitted it, he doubted that it would pass. The Democratic-dominated Assembly passed the measure, and the Republican-led Senate rejected it.
Short of an act by the Legislature, the directive ordered by Paterson is one of the strongest statements a state can make in favor of gay unions.
“Basically we’ve done everything we can do on marriage legislatively at this point,” said Sean Patrick Maloney, a senior adviser to Paterson. “But there are tools in our tool kit on the executive side, and this is one.”
The directive cited a Feb. 1 ruling by a state Appellate Court in Rochester that Patricia Martinez, a woman who worked at Monroe Community College who married her partner in Canada, could not be denied health benefits by the college because of New York’s longstanding policy of recognizing marriages performed elsewhere, even if they are not explicitly allowed under New York law. The appeals court said that New York must recognize marriages performed in other states that allow the practice and in countries that permit it, such as Canada and Spain.
Monroe County filed an appeal with the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, but it was rejected on technical grounds. The county has not decided whether to file another appeal, a county spokesman said Wednesday. The Court of Appeals has previously ruled that the state’s constitution did not compel the recognition of same- sex marriages and that it was up to the Legislature to decide whether to do so.
Groups that oppose gay marriage said the governor essentially was trying to circumvent the Legislature.
Gay rights advocates, however, applauded Paterson, saying the broad directive would make it clear that gay couples wed in other states were entitled to all of the benefits of marriage in New York and relieve them of the burden of challenging or suing individual agencies.
Massachusetts and California are the only states that have legalized gay marriage. Same-sex couples will be able to wed in California beginning June 17, according to a state directive issued Wednesday. Other states, including New Jersey and Vermont, allow civil unions. Forty-one states, including Virginia, have laws limiting marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
(C) 2008 The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, Norfolk, VA. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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