Press Releases
Press Office
(518) 474-4015


September 12, 2007

DiNapoli: State Retirement System Recognizes
Same-Sex Marriages in Any Jurisdiction Where They're Legal

Commends State Supreme Court for Dismissing Lawsuit

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today said the New York State and Local Retirement System would recognize same-sex marriages validly conducted in any jurisdiction where they are legal. DiNapoli’s announcement follows the State Supreme Court's decision this week to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Retirement System’s recognition of Canadian same-sex marriages.

DiNapoli’s announcement came in response to a letter from a state employee who is considering marriage to her same-sex partner. Previously the Retirement System recognized same-sex marriages conducted in Canada. The State Supreme Court this week rejected a lawsuit challenging the Retirement System’s recognition of Canadian same-sex marriages.

“This is a great day for New Yorkers who believe in fairness and equality,” DiNapoli said. “The Courts have ruled. The law is clear, and it’s not just Canada. New York State recognizes any marriage that has been conducted in accordance with the laws of other states and countries – and that includes same-sex marriages.”

The State Comptroller’s office administers the Retirement System, which includes more than one million employees and retirees. In October 2004, the Retirement System recognized same-sex marriages conducted in Canada under the principle of comity, a legal doctrine that has been followed by New York State for many years.

In September 2006, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) filed a lawsuit (Godfrey v. DiNapoli) against the Retirement System to halt recognition of same-sex Canadian marriages. In his ruling this week dismissing the lawsuit, Acting Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. McNamara held that “the determination by the Comptroller to recognize same-sex marriages performed in Canada, in accordance with the laws of that jurisdiction, is consistent with New York law regarding the recognition of marriages performed elsewhere.”

Surviving spouses of the Retirement System retirees may receive certain benefits that are not provided for non-spousal partners, including an accidental death benefit awarded in certain situations and a cost-of-living adjustment to monthly pension payments.

Lambda Legal was also added to the lawsuit by Judge McNamara on behalf of certain same-sex spouses who could be impacted by the determination. Lambda Legal is a national organization advocating for the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender individuals and people with HIV. DiNapoli thanked Lambda Legal for their legal assistance in this matter.

The Retirement System one million members include state employees and retirees as well as employees and retirees from local governments throughout New York State, not including New York City employees. The State Comptroller is the sole trustee of the Retirement System and the $154.5 billion Common Retirement Fund.

Click here for state employee's letter to Comptroller DiNapoli.

Click here for a copy of the Retirement System's letter to state employee.

Click here for a copy of October 2004 letter.

Click here for a copy of the court's decision in Godfrey v. DiNapoli.



Albany Phone: (518) 474-4015 Fax: (518) 473-8940
NYC Phone: (212) 681-4840 Fax: (212) 681-7677