State Appeals Court Upholds New York City Domestic Partner Law

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Right-wing group trying to erode protections for gay families turned back again
November 5, 1999

(NEW YORK, November 5, 1999) -- A New York appeals court has upheld the New York City domestic partner law, dealing a blow to the national campaign waged by Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice to overturn municipal domestic partner ordinances across the country, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Friday.

A five-member panel of the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court unanimously upheld the legality of the New York City ordinance in a brief four-page opinion in Slattery v. City of New York released late Thursday. Lambda had filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the domestic partner law.

Staff Attorney Marvin C. Peguese, who wrote Lambda's brief, said, "This important decision follows both a legal and social trend recognizing the importance and feasability of providing domestic partner benefits. This ruling will aid many lesbian and gay families who need the protection and security that most non-gay families take for granted."

The Court found no reason to overturn the city ordinance, passed in 1998 and following the state’s voluntary example of offering domestic partner benefits to its employees and retirees. The city law codified the 1993 settlement of the case Lambda brought on behalf of the New York Lesbian & Gay Teachers Association, which also required the city to provide domestic partners benefits to municipal workers.

"Given these actions by the State, plaintiffs' claim that it is against State and/or public policy for the City to provide health care and other benefits to the domestic partners of its employees...is untenable," wrote the Court in affirming a lower court decision that likewise rejected the ACLJ's claims.

Using arguments that already have been dismissed by other courts across the country, the ACLJ challenged the city's authority to enact the ordinance, and argued that the domestic partner law interfered with state marriage statutes. The conservative legal group represented three individuals who were not employed by the city and whose only interest in the case was the fact that they paid taxes.

In recent years, the domestic partner laws of San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, and other municipalities also have been upheld by courts nationwide. Over 2,000 public and private employers like IBM, Microsoft, Time Warner, and United Airlines already offer domestic partner benefits in order to promote fairness and attract the most qualified workers.

Headquartered in New York and with regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta, Lambda is the nation's oldest and largest legal organization serving lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV/AIDS.

(Slattery v. City of New York, No. 113307/98) --30--

CONTACT: Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x230, 1-888-987-1984 pager; Joneil Adriano 212-809-8585 x 241; Marvin C. Peguese 212-809-8585 x 213

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