Saturday, 25 June 2011

New York Marriage Equality Act

I've been terrible at getting posts up the last few days - even busier than normal. Well, as you have probably seen, New York is the latest US State to introduce into law same-sex marriage. It was done via a legislative process rather than a court-driven one, and on Friday the Marriage Equality Act was passed. In a press release, the State Governor, Andrew Cuomo said:

"New York has finally torn down the barrier that has prevented same-sex couples from exercising the freedom to marry and from receiving the fundamental protections that so many couples and families take for granted," Governor Cuomo said. "With the world watching, the Legislature, by a bipartisan vote, has said that all New Yorkers are equal under the law. With this vote, marriage equality will become a reality in our state, delivering long overdue fairness and legal security to thousands of New Yorkers."

"I commend Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Minority Leader John Sampson for their leadership and Senator Tom Duane for his lifetime commitment to fighting for equality for all New Yorkers," Governor Cuomo continued. "I also thank Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell for ushering this measure through their chamber."

The Act means that:
  • A marriage that is otherwise valid shall be valid regardless of whether the parties to the marriage are of the same or different sex
  • No government treatment or legal status, effect, right, benefit, privilege, protection or responsibility relating to marriage shall differ based on the parties to the marriage being the same sex or a different sex
  • No application for a marriage license shall be denied on the ground that the parties are of the same or a different sex
There is - rather like the Civil Partnership Act - a religious exclusion. The Act states that no religious entity, benevolent organization or not-for-profit corporation that is operated, supervised or controlled by a religious entity, or their employees can be required to perform marriage ceremonies or provide their facilities for marriage ceremonies, consistent with their religious principles. In addition, religious entities will not be subject to any legal action for refusing marriage ceremonies.

Crucially for activists and lawyers, this does not create a new category of legal relationship such as a civil union or civil partnership, rather it extends the institution of marriage (in civil terms) to same-sex couples.

Read more on The Advocate here. The Bill can be read here.

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