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Same Sex Marriages: Rights and Obligations in New York

On June 26, 2011, the Marriage Equality Act was passed in New York.  New York became the fifth state to recognize same sex marriages.  The Marriage Equality Act states “a marriage that is otherwise valid shall be valid whether the parties of the marriage are of the same or different sex.”  The intent of the statute is to allow marriage to become a fundamental human right in same sex relationships.

Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

The Defense of Marriage Act, which is a federal statute passed by Congress, does not recognize same sex marriages.  This statute bars the Federal Government from recognizing same sex marriage as being constitutional.  The law states “no state, territory, or possession of the United States or Indian tribe shall be required to give effect to any public act, record or judicial proceeding or any other state, territory, possession or tribe respecting relationships between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other state, territory, possession, or tribe or right or claim arising from such other relationship.” It should be further noted pursuant to Section Seven under Title One of the United States Code marriage is defined as a legal union between a man and a woman and the term spouse only refers to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

Rights Under New York’s Marriage Equality Act

The Marriage Equality Act in New York conveys certain rights to individuals in same sex marriages.  The following are a list of some of these rights:

1.         Family and Medical Leave

2.         Veterans and military benefits

3.         Workman’s Compensation benefits

4.         Pension and survivor benefits

5.         Immigration rights

6.         Health insurance

7.         Automobile Insurance

8.         Burial rights

9.         Testate and Intestate Spousal rights under New York State law (Inheritance Rights)

10.       Creates tenancy by the entirety regarding real property ownership (marital rights to real estate)

11.       Allows a New York State Tax exemption

12.       Creates certain spousal evidentiary privileges


The New York Marriage Equality Act goes a long way in recognizing same sex marriage and providing the parties to these marriages with many benefits.  However, until the Federal Government revokes the Defense of Marriage Act there are numerous federal benefits that won’t attach to individuals in same sex marriages.

New York and Long Island Divorce and Family Court Lawyers

The Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo have been litigating a myriad of issues involving divorce and family court situations for more than thirty years.  The attorneys at this firm have more than 100 years of combined legal experience.  Some of the matters handled by the law firm involved divorces, divorce grounds, orders of protection, high net worth divorces, grandparents’ rights, equitable distribution of assets, annulments, no fault divorce, child abuse defense, issues involving reduction of child support, custody issues, changing child custody, orders of protection, father right issues and mothers’ rights issuesFeel free to contact the firm for a consultation.

Canadian Gay Marriage Valid, Partner to Inherit in Probate Court


The Appellate Division in New York held in February of 2011, in the matter of the Estate of H. Kenneth Ranftle, that they recognize as valid the Canadian marriage of H. Kenneth Ranftle and J. Craig Leiby. The late Kenneth Ranftle named Craig as “surviving spouse and sole distributee” in his will. The court found that the recognizing of the Canadian marriage, for purposes of extending the partner of the deceased inheritance benefits, was not in violation of New York public policy.

The court said, “the legislature’s failure to authorize same sex couples to enter into marriage in New York, or acquire recognition of validly perform out of state same sex marriages, cannot serve as an expression of public policy for the state.” The decision was unanimously made by the Appellate Division of the First Department.

Obama Administration to No Longer  Defend the Defense of Marriage Act

The decision was rendered on February 24, 2011. This was the same day that the Obama Administration in Washington formally announced that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act. This law defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman under federal law.

Prior Marriage in 2008

Mr. Ranftle and Mr. Leiby married in Quebec, Ontario, in June of 2008. Mr. Ranftle lived together for a period of five months after their marriage. His will left the large majority of his estate to Mr. Leiby. Mr. Leiby was also designated his executor.

Mr. Leiby submitted a probate petition in New York County Surrogates Court. In it he claimed he was the surviving spouse and only distributee of the estate. One of Mr. Ranftle’s brothers brought a proceeding to set aside the probate petition.

Same Sex Marriage Not Valid in New York

The New York State Court of Appeals has previously ruled that same sex marriages are not valid if entered into in the state of New York. However, the court does recognize marriages in foreign countries and in other states where same sex marriages are considered legal.

During his administration, Governor David Patterson instructed state agencies to consider same sex marriages entered into in foreign countries and other states where they are considered legal, to be excepted in New York State.

Mr. Ranftle’s brother had argued in the Surrogates Court, “recognizing same sex marriages is a fundamental legal claim that cannot occur in the absence of legislative authority.” His argument was not accepted by either the Surrogates Court in New York County or the Appellate Division, First Department.


New York Divorce Lawyers

For more than thirty years, the Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo has been handling divorce proceedings in New York. We represent individuals in same sex relationships. We negotiate pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements. We protect both mothers’ rights and fathers’ rights. We negotiate separation agreements on behalf of our clients. We litigate issues involving orders of protection, family law, child custody, child abuse and child neglect. Call us should you need a matrimonial or family law attorney within the Metropolitan New York area. Our phone numbers are 718-350-2802, 516-561-6645 or 1-800-344-6431.

Obama Administration Refuses to Defend the Defense of Marriage Act

same sex marriagesIn 1996, a Federal Statute was passed by Congress that prevented federal recognition of same sex marriages. President Obama has recently directed the Justice Department to stop taking legal action to defend this law in court.

The Obama Administration’s decision was presented to members of Congress by a letter written by Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. The letter stated, “the President and I have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation” should be subjected to tests that have, in the past, had the impact of blocking unfair discrimination. Attorney General Holder specifically stated that “the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.”

The Obama administration’s position on the Defense of Marriage Act has been heavily criticized by conservatives in Congress. While conservatives are very unhappy about the Obama administrations position, gay right activist are overjoyed.

Anthony D. Romero, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, upon hearing of the Obama’s administrations position on the Defense Marriage Act, stated “this is a great step by the Obama administration and a tipping point for the gay rights movement that will have ripple effects in contexts beyond the Defense of Marriage Act.”

He further stated, “it will reach into issues of employment discrimination, family recognition and full equality rights for lesbian and gay people.”

Same Sex Marriage

There are approximately a dozen states in the United States that allow members of the same sex to be married. New York is not one of these states. However, New York State will recognize same sex marriages if those marriages were legal in the state that they took place. New York takes this action under the theory of comity of laws.


Fathers’ Rights Lawyers

Gay men and women are now fighting to obtain greater rights. In New York State, women received equal rights in 1989. When women received equal rights, fathers also benefitted by the matrimonial and family laws in the State of New York becoming gender neutral. It was thought at that time that fathers’ custody and visitation rights would be greatly enhanced. Although in theory this took place, fathers in the Family Courts are not treated equally in New York State.

Our office represents fathers regarding divorce proceedings, child custody, child visitation matters, child support issues, spousal maintenance and with regard to issues involving allegations of child abuse and child neglect. When fathers are thrown out of their homes due to domestic violence allegations, we represent them in contesting the orders of protection that are taken out against them.

In situations where the parties are amicable, we negotiate separation agreements on behalf of our clients. We also assist fathers with regard to the no-fault divorce law recently passed in the State of New York. Feel free to call us for a free consultation at 1-800-344-6431, 516-561-6645 and 718-350-2802.

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