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New York High Court Hears Argument in Cases Attacking Government Respect for Out-of-State Marriages of Same-Sex Couples

(Albany, New York) – Lambda Legal argued before the New York State Court of Appeals earlier this week on behalf of two married same-sex couples after the Alliance Defense Fund, an antigay legal group, objected to county and state officials acting in compliance with long-standing
New York law by recognizing out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples.

The case Godfrey v. Spano first unfolded in June 2006 when Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano issued Executive Order No. 3, stating that Westchester County would officially recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples the same way it currently recognizes marriages of different-sex couples. Three months later the Alliance Defense Fund, representing purported New York taxpayers sued the county executive claiming that he did not have the right to issue his order.

"There has been a steady drumbeat of courts recognizing long-established New York law as it applies to same-sex couples," said Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal. "It's time to put this to rest – all marriages should be treated equally under the law. And for our clients, the impact is very real: Respecting out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples will ensure that important spousal health coverage will continue for government employees."

Lambda Legal intervened on behalf of two married same-sex couples that will be affected by the court's decision. Peri Rainbow and Tamela Sloan, long-time public employees intervened in the case, and are raising a special needs child adopted from foster care. The couple depends on the critical government protections that come from respect for their marriage. "We are fighting against ADF to keep the same health coverage as our co-workers," said Rainbow. "We just want to be able to continue using the health insurance that provides important medical benefits for our family."

Lambda Legal represents Westchester County couple Michael Sabatino and Robert Voorheis, who married in Canada and were permitted to intervene as defendants in the Godfrey v. Spano case. "We hope the court will re-affirm that our relationship will be honored in the community where we live and where we make our life together as a married couple," said Sabatino. "It would be a relief to know that we will continue to have the protections that come from our marriage."