Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Upstate county nixes same-sex marriage challenge : News : WSTM NBC3

Upstate county nixes same-sex marriage challenge : News : WSTM NBC3

ROCHESTER (AP) -- An upstate New York county has decided not to challenge an appeals court ruling in February declaring that a lesbian couple's marriage in Canada should be recognized in New York.

Patricia Martinez, a word processing supervisor at Monroe Community College, sued the school in 2005 for refusing to extend health benefits to her lesbian partner, Lisa Ann Golden, while granting them to heterosexual married couples.

The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in Rochester recognized the marriage and ordered the county to extend benefits from Martinez' job to her spouse. Monroe County has now abandoned its intent to appeal and considers the ruling to be New York's law unless changed by the Legislature, said county Attorney Daniel DeLaus.

"It gives us a sense that we can now move forward with our life and our marriage," Martinez, 53, said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

In a family ritual at Thanksgiving each year, "we go around the table and we talk about what we're thankful for," Martinez said. "We have an enormous amount to be thankful for during this holiday season."

Martinez and Golden have known each other for more than 20 years. They formalized their relationship in a civil union ceremony in Vermont in 2001 and were married in Niagara Falls, Canada, in 2004.

The appeals court noted that New York state has historically recognized marriages consecrated elsewhere except in cases of incest or polygamy.

"In dropping its appeal, Monroe County has finally recognized the fact that lesbian and gay couples are entitled to the same protections under state law that other couples receive," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, passed up a chance in May to hear Monroe County's challenge, saying damages due to Martinez needed to be resolved first by the trial judge. In her lawsuit, Martinez is seeking to recover payments to cover her partner's health care costs.

In a 2006 decision, the Court of Appeals said the state's Constitution did not compel the recognition of same-sex marriage. The court left it up to the Legislature to change the traditional definition of marriage.

(Copyright ©2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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