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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

Conclusion

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.

Former President Bush’s Daughter Endorses Gay Marriage

bush-150x100Barbara Bush, age 29, one of George Bush’s twin daughters, has taped a video endorsing gay marriage. The video calls for the State of New York to legalize gay marriage. In her video, she says this a matter of conscience and equality.

Her father, former President George Bush, does not agree with her on this topic. Barbara Bush is not the first child of a prominent Republican to support same sex marriage.

Meghan McCain Endorses Same Sex Marriage

Meghan McCain, the daughter of John McCain, who received the Republic nomination for the presidency in 2008, has been a outspoken supporter of same sex marriages. Her father, John McCain, like George Bush, opposes same sex marriage.

Mary Cheney Supports Same Sex Marriages

Mary Cheney is the daughter of Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney was the Vice President serving under George Bush. Mary Cheney is a lesbian. She is an outspoken supporter of gay rights and gay marriage. As with George Bush and John McCain, Mary’s father, Dick Cheney opposes same sex marriage.

New York Bars Law Concerning Same Sex Marriages

Members of the same sex can now marry in the State of New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo helped get this bill through the New York State Legislature. Hooray for Andrew Cuomo!

New York and Long Island Divorce Lawyer

The Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo have been handling divorces in the Metropolitan New York area for over 33 years. We litigate all aspects of divorce related proceedings in the Supreme Court and Family Court. These proceedings involve divorce groundsno fault divorcechild custodymothers’ rights,fathers’ rightschild supportdownward modification of child supportspousal maintenance (alimony)and domestic violence issues. In addition, we negotiate separation agreementsprenuptial agreementsand post-nuptial agreements for our clients. We litigate equitable distribution issues involving doctor, dentist and lawyer licenses. Call us for a free consultation.

Canadian Gay Marriage Valid, Partner to Inherit in Probate Court

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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.

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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.

Governor Cuomo Seeks to Legalize Gay Marriage in New York

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In March of this year, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo went on record that he was in favor of the legalization of same sex marriage in the state of New York. He stated that he would be involved in a campaign to legalize same sex marriage.

Same Sex Law Failed in 2010

Last year, a same sex marriage law was proposed. It was defeated in the New York State Senate by a large margin. The question this year is whether Mr. Cuomo’s political savvy will be sufficient enough to get a same sex marriage bill through the state legislature.

Senator Dean Skellos from Rockville Center, New York, has gone on record as being opposed to the legalization of same sex marriages. Senator Skellos, a Republican, is the majority leader in the New York Senate.

At a meeting with leaders of the state’s most prominent gay rights organizations, Governor Cuomo compared same sex marriage to historical movements such as the women’s liberation, gay rights and environmental justice. Governor Cuomo stated New York needed to restore its reputation as a progressive state. Governor Cuomo stated, “to me this is more than just a piece of legislation, this is about the lives of people who I have known for many years and who currently are without the rights to which they are entitled.”

Long Island and New York Divorce Lawyer

Our law office handles various types of issues that arise from same sex relationships. In addition, we litigate divorce related issues such as child custody, child abuse, child neglect, separation agreements and the division of property. We represent individuals who seek to fight orders of protection. We also negotiate pre-nuptial agreements and post-nuptial agreements for our clients. Should our client be involved in a high net worth divorce, we have an in house accountant that assists our lawyers in dealing with complicated financial issues. Fee free to call us for a free consultation.

Same Sex Marriage Fails in Maryland

There is a bill before the Maryland State Legislature to allow same sex marriage. On Friday, March 11, 2011, this bill was withdrawn from consideration due to the unlikelihood of the bill being passed by the state legislature. The law was titled the Civil Marriage Protection Act. For the past few weeks, the bill sponsors have been claiming that Maryland would be the sixth state to pass a same sex marriage law. The sponsors’ difficulties have been increasing in recent days.

The National Organization for Marriage and The Family Research Council both opposed this bill. They claim that African Americans and religious opponents were the reason for the defeat of the bill. They stated that particular thanks must go to African American pastors, church members and delegates who spoke out against the attempted highjacking of the concept of civil rights.

The bill supporters hoped to obtain full marriage rights similar to those that exist in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut and the District of Columbia. They were not interested in a civil union statute, which they claim was a watered down version of what they wanted. For now, gays can’t marry in Maryland.

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Nassau County Divorce Lawyers

We are divorce lawyers. For more than 33 years, we have represented clients concerning issues involving divorces, divorce grounds, family law matters, orders of protection, child custody, child abuse, child neglect, separation agreements, annulments, division of property in divorce, amicable divorce, fathers’ rights, mothers’ rights, mediation and pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

We also represent individuals married in other states who are seeking divorces in New York. Same sex relationships involve many of the same issues that heterosexual divorce are involved with. Feel free to call us for a free consultation at 1-800-344-6431, 516-561-6645 or 718-350-2802.

Non-biological Gay Father Prevails Against Biological Father

same-150x150This is the story of a complicated, unique case decided by the Texas Court of Appeals. Two men first travel to Canada and thereafter to California for the purpose of creating a legal gay union. A surrogate was hired who bore a child for one of the gay men. A proceeding was brought in the State of California to establish both gay men as legal parents of the child. A lawsuit was brought in the State of Texas to dissolve the marriage. However, since Texas didn’t recognize the marriage, they couldn’t dissolve it. Texas courts will not acknowledge same sex marriages from other states.

California Parenting Judgment

In the State of California, the two men were considered legal parents of the child. They obtained from California a pre-birth declaration of parentage. This is pursuant to the Uniform Parentage Act, which is a valid statute in California. This is a legal device designed to allow gay couples to use a surrogate and have both men be designated as a parent of the child. This unusual statute created difficulties when the two men broke up.

Break-up for Gay Couple

Although break-ups between heterosexual couples can be complicated and nasty, the break up of two male parents of a child is both unusual and involves complex legal issues. In this case, the biological parent, after the break-up, claimed that the non-biological parent had no parental rights. The Texas Court of Appeals disagreed with the argument of the biological parent. They found that under the Uniform Parentage Act, both parents had equal rights similar to a heterosexual couple.

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Fathers’ Rights Attorneys In New York

The Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo has been defending fathers’ rights in matrimonial and family law cases for more than thirty years. We litigate issues such parental alienation, parental alienation syndrome, relocation problems, equitable distribution of assets in divorce, child abuse defenses and prosecutions by Child Protective Services (CPS) and Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) for child abuse.

In divorce cases, we assist our clients concerning child custody, child visitation, child support and spousal maintenance (alimony) issues. If our clients are charged with domestic violence, we litigate the orders of protection that are taken out against them by their spouses. When fathers have financial difficulties, we bring downward modification of support proceedings. We also litigate the issue of paternity on behalf of our clients.

Call us for a free consultation. Our office numbers are 1-800-344-6431, 516-561- 6645 and 718-350-2802. Our phones are monitored 24/7.

Lesbian Obligated To Pay Child Support

lesbian_parents1-300x200Under current law, if a heterosexual male has a one night stand with a woman and she becomes pregnant, the man is legally obligated to pay child support. Furthermore, in situations where a male is paying child support to a woman even when he is not the father, he cannot discontinue payments under the doctrine of “equitable estoppel“. This doctrine states that a man with no biological or adoptive connections to a child cannot stop paying child support if he has established a history of providing for the child.

In the case of H.M. v. E.T., the mother had conceived a child through artificial insemination. She had relied on her lesbian partner’s assurances that she would receive child support for the baby. When her partner backed out on her commitment to provide financial support, the mother brought the matter to court.

The Second Department of the Appellate Division (an appeals court) held that the assurances of support by a non-adoptive, non-biological adult who engages in a same sex relationship is also subject to the doctrine of equitable estoppel. Therefore, the lesbian woman would have to continue paying child support even though her relationship with her lover had ended.

New York does not grant the non-biological woman in a lesbian relationship visitation unless she formally adopts the child. Query: will the courts look differently on a lesbian partner’s request for child visitation where the partner is obligated to pay child support?

Should you have issues concerning child support, custody or visitation, feel free to contact the family lawyers at the Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo, by email or at 1-800-344-6431.

New York Court Grants First Lesbian Divorce

lesbian-same-sex-marriageOur office practices a great deal of matrimonial law, so it is with great interest that we read about a Broome County New York Supreme Court justice who just granted Lauren Wells-Weiss and Shari Weiss (married in Canada) a divorce. By doing so, it implicitly also recognized the fact that they were initially married, the first time this has happened in the marriage or divorce context in New York.

The New York Surrogate’s Court has already recognized a same-sex marriage performed in Canada for the purpose of an Administration proceeding, as reported on this site in February.

I am frankly not surprised by the recognition of Canadian same-sex marriages for the purpose of granting a divorce. That issue is not fundamentally different from the one considered by the Surrogate’s Court. And in the recent case of Lewis v. NYS Dept. of Civil Service, 872 NYS 2d 578 (3d Dept 2009), the Appellate Division held that marriages validly performed in another jurisdiction, unless void as a matter of public policy or specifically excluded by New York’s Domestic Relations law, are recognized as valid by New York State as well.

The Court held that New York’s recognition of validly-performed foreign jurisdiction same-sex marriages do not fall into either exception to New York’s general recognition of out-of-state marriages. It pointed out that NY’s Domestic Relations law does not specifically invalidate foreign same-sex marriages. The court also clarified that New York has only invalidated a few types of marriages based on public policy, including incestuous or polygamous marriages, and marriages where one party was under the age of consent.

That being the case, it comes as no surprise that a situation has arisen in which a New York court has had to decide whether it may grant a divorce in the case of a Canadian same-sex marriage, a new application of an emerging pattern of foreign same-sex marriage recognition in New York.

Picture courtesy of NevadaThunder.com.

Can Simultaneous, Multiple Wives All Receive Spousal Health Benefits in NY?

man-two-wives-brides-polygamyAs a law clerk in a law office that does a tremendous amount of Wills Trusts and Estates work, I found this story pretty interesting.

Professor Volokh at The Volokh Conspiracy reported on a New York County Surrogate’s Court case, which granted “surviving spouse” status to a “husband” whose same-sex marriage was performed in Canada. In the case of In re Estate of Ranftle, a man married another man in Quebec and they moved to Manhattan. One of them died, leaving his husband and three siblings.

The question was whether New York should recognize the Canadian same-sex marriage as valid for the purpose of giving the surviving husband the decedent’s entire estate, where the decedent died without a Will. Had he left an inheritance to his husband in a Will, this would not have been an issue. But since he did not, his property passes pursuant to New York State intestacy law under EPTL 4-1.1.

The Surrogate ruled that, pursuant to the general presumption of the validity of foreign marriages, New York should recognize any marriages performed in a foreign jurisdiction unless the marriage violates some major public policy or “Natural Law.” Case law in New York has established that this exception only applies in cases of marriages involving incest between close relatives. Also, it argued that since all that was at stake in this case was the distribution of property, there was no reason to go outside of the generally held principal of recognizing foreign or out-of-state marriages.

Interestingly, Prof. Volokh also pointed out an interesting case from 1948 in California, In re Bir’s Estate, where a man who married two wives died, where he had married both wives legally in India, where polygamy was legal at the time. The California court held that in the case of recognizing a polygamous marriage, if all that’s at stake is the distribution of property, the public policy against polygamous marriages would not cause that state to actively not recognize that marriage.

I wonder what would happen if a man married two wives today in a country where that is legal, and then moved to New York. But let’s say the issue is not related to the distribution of his property. What if the husband got a job working for New York City or State government and the issue was whether both of his wives could receive health benefits as a spouse under his insurance plan?

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