Saying NY Law Requires Respect for Gay Couples, Lambda Legal Argues To Keep Decision Allowing Gay Man To Pursue Wrongful Death Case as a Spouse

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In Tuesday's oral argument, Lambda Legal defends a historic court ruling that said Vermont civil unions must be respected in New York state
June 21, 2001

(New York, Monday, June 21, 2004) - A New York state appeals court will hear oral argument Tuesday morning on whether civil unions are respected in New York state. Last year, Lambda Legal won the first case in the nation that appropriately recognized a couple who entered into a Vermont civil union as spouses outside that state.


Lambda Legal will argue that a court ruled correctly that a gay man is a legal spouse in New York and able to sue St. Vincent’s Hospital for medical negligence leading to his longtime spouse’s death.

Lambda Legal represents John Langan in his fight to have his relationship with his spouse, Neal Conrad Spicehandler, treated equally. With last year’s decision, Langan won the right to sue St. Vincent’s Hospital for wrongful death medical malpractice leading to Spicehandler’s death. A conservative Republican trial court judge agreed with Lambda Legal that New York should recognize Langan and Spicehandler as spouses just as New York has always respected spousal status created in other states.

"Same-sex couples in New York must be treated equally under the law. The court decision that we’re fighting to uphold correctly respects gay couples, and we’re fighting to uphold that important ruling," said Adam Aronson, the Lambda Legal staff attorney handling the case. In 2000, Vermont enacted its Civil Union Law to extend the state benefits and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples. No state or court, before last year’s decision, had recognized the couple in a Vermont civil union as spouses outside of Vermont. St. Vincent’s Hospital, in the heart of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, is asking the state court to block Langan from suing for wrongful death and medical malpractice, claiming that because he and Spicehandler were a gay couple, their 15-year relationship should not be recognized legally. Langan and Spicehandler were joined in a civil union in Vermont and also had numerous legal documents reflecting their relationship, and the hospital treated Langan as Spicehandler’s spouse throughout the medical ordeal.

What: Oral argument in Langan v. St. Vincent’s Hospital

When: Tuesday, June 22, 10 a.m.

Where: Appellate Division, 2nd Dept., 45 Monroe Place, Brooklyn

Media availability will be on courthouse steps directly after the argument

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Contact: Fred Shank, 212-809-8585 ext. 2

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