Top Three Car Insurance Companies in New York Will Respect Gay Couples' Marriages, Lambda Legal Confirms

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July 6, 2004

(New York, July 6, 2004) - The three largest car insurance companies in New York - which, together, provide insurance to a third of all drivers in the state -- will respect the marriages of same-sex couples, providing them with the same rates and coverage as married heterosexual couples, Lambda Legal said today. In recent months, Lambda Legal has been working with couples throughout the state who were married in Canada to ensure that their marriages are fully respected.

“New York law requires respect for marriages that were validly performed elsewhere. As more same-sex couples get married, it’s critical that they receive rights and protections - from the government as well as the private sector,” said Alphonso David, Lambda Legal Staff Attorney. “The insurance industry is making a strong statement for fairness, and we’re working with other businesses and government agencies to secure similar results.”

Allstate, State Farm and Geico auto insurance companies - which are, in order, the top three providers in New York - have agreed to comply with state law and respect all same-sex couples who are legally married, David said. Electric auto insurance also treats its legally married lesbian and gay clients equally.

Lambda Legal discovered that Geico had previously respected the marriages of only some same-sex couples while denying the same benefits to others. Two New York couples, who worked with Lambda Legal and pay for Geico auto insurance coverage, were treated unequally by the insurance giant. But Geico recently reversed its inconsistent practice and said it will respect all same-sex couples who are legally married.

“Not all of the benefits and protections of marriage come from the government. Many of the practical changes married same-sex couples will see will come from private businesses. In some instances, like car insurance, the difference may add up to hundreds of dollars a year for gay couples. These couples are married, and their marriages must be respected like any other,” David said.

State law in New York mandates full respect for marriages that are validly performed elsewhere, according to Lambda Legal. “Right now, gay couples cannot get marriage licenses in New York. We’re working to change that because it’s unconstitutional - but even as our path-breaking marriage lawsuit in New York moves forward, businesses and government agencies must comply with the law and respect gay couples who were married elsewhere.” Earlier this year, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against New York City on behalf of five same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses. The case was the first of its kind to be filed in New York since the Massachusetts high court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to full marriage under that state’s Constitution.

According the U.S. Census in 2000, New York City has the largest percentage of same-sex households of any city in the country, with 8.9% of the country’s households where gay couples live together; statewide, the 2000 Census counted 46,490 same-sex couples throughout New York State. City and state laws provide minimal protections and rights to same-sex couples.

Other than Massachusetts, no state allows same-sex couples to marry, although three Canadian providences now fully sanction marriage for same-sex couples. For a period of time this year, San Francisco, Portland, New Paltz and (briefly) Sandoval County, New Mexico, also married same-sex couples. Forty states explicitly ban same-sex couples from marrying or have laws refusing to respect marriages from other states. New York is not among those states. An amendment to the federal Constitution that has been proposed and introduced in Congress would ban marriage between same-sex couples and could also block other protections for couples. That amendment has ignited controversy even among some conservatives because of its breadth and because of the extreme nature of amending the nation’s founding document.

Besides its lawsuit seeking marriage in New York, Lambda Legal is also currently litigating marriage cases in New Jersey, California (with the ACLU, National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equality California), and Washington (with the Northwest Women’s Law Center).

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