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New York to recognize gay marriages

  • Story Highlights
  • Memo: Failing to recognize gay marriages would violate New York's human rights law
  • The directive follows a February ruling from a New York state appeals court
  • Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriages in 2004
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From Cheryl Robinson
CNN
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Gov. David Paterson of New York has told state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states and countries where they are legal, his spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The governor's legal counsel told state agencies in a May 14 memo to revise policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in California and Massachusetts as well as Canada and other countries that allow gays and lesbians to marry, said Erin Duggan, the governor's spokeswoman.

The memo informed state agencies that failing to recognize gay marriages would violate the New York's human rights law, Duggan said.

The directive follows a February ruling from a New York state appeals court. That decision says that legal same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions are entitled to recognition in New York.

"This was in direct response to a court ruling," Duggan told CNN. "Just to make sure all the state agencies are on the same page." See what rules your state has about same-sex unions »

Duggan says that the court's decision was consistent with the findings of several lower courts in New York State.

The governor's legal counsel sent the memo one day before the California Supreme Court struck down a ban on gay marriage in that state. Court officials in California counties may begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on June 17, state officials said Wednesday.

Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriages in 2004, and gay couples need not be state residents there to wed. However, then-Gov. Mitt Romney resurrected a 1913 law barring non-resident marriages in the state if the marriage would be prohibited in the partners' home state.

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Subsequent court and agency decisions have determined that only residents of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Mexico may marry in Massachusetts, unless the parties say they plan to move there after the marriage.

New Hampshire, Vermont, New Jersey and Connecticut permit civil unions, while California has a domestic-partner registration law. More than a dozen other states give same-sex couples some legal rights, as do some other countries.

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