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September 13, 2006

 

Hevesi Plans “Vigorous Defense” of Retirement System
Recognition of Canadian Same-Sex Marriages
After Conservative Group Files Lawsuit

State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi said today that he would undertake a strong defense of the State Retirement System’s recognition of Canadian same-sex marriages after the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) filed suit against the Comptroller’s office to halt the practice.

The Comptroller’s office administers the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), which includes 334,000 retirees and 648,000 current employees. In response to an October 2004 inquiry from a state employee who was contemplating marriage in Canada to his same-sex partner, it was determined that such marriages would be recognized by the Retirement System under the principle of comity, a legal doctrine which has been followed by New York State for many years.

Surviving spouses of NYSLRS retirees can potentially receive certain benefits that are not provided for non-spousal partners: An accidental death benefit awarded in certain situations and a cost-of-living adjustment to monthly pension payments.

“We plan a vigorous defense because the law is clear: In New York State, we recognize marriages that have been conducted in Canada in accordance with Canadian laws – and that now includes same-sex marriages,” Hevesi said. “I have for many years believed that lesbians and gay men should have the right to marry in New York. But our October 2004 decision was a strictly legal determination based upon statutes and case law, not on my personal opinion.”

ADF brought the suit in State Supreme Court in Albany County. The named plaintiffs in the case are four residents of Westchester County. According to its website, ADF provides case funding, strategy and coordination, attorney training, and litigation to oppose efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, to keep abortion legal and other issues.

The NYSLRS includes state employees and retirees as well as employees and retirees from local governments throughout New York State, not including New York City. The State Comptroller is the sole trustee of the NYSLRS and the $140 billion Common Retirement Fund.

Click here for the October 2004 letter from the Retirement System to the state employee who was contemplating marriage in Canada to his same-sex partner, in which the determination that such marriages would be recognized by the NYSLRS is outlined.

 

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