Monroe Community College discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation when it denied health benefits to a lesbian employee’s partner, a New York appellate court ruled on Friday.
The court held that the college violated New York’s “marriage recognition law” by not recognizing the validity of the couple’s 2004 marriage in Canada, The New York Times reported. Just as New York employers honor heterosexual marriages that take place in other jurisdictions they must honor gay marriages, the ruling maintains.
“The Legislature may decide to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages solemnized abroad,” the five-judge panel of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court stated in its ruling. “Until it does so, however, such marriages are entitled to recognition in New York.”
Lawyers for both sides agreed that the decision applied to all public and private employers in the state.
The plaintiff is Patricia Martinez, a word-processing supervisor at the college, who married Lisa Ann Golden in Ontario in 2004. Ms. Martinez sued Monroe Community College in 2006 after it denied the couple’s 2004 request for health benefits, but a New York Supreme Court justice dismissed the case.
The college begain providing benefits to the women in 2006 under a new contract. The appellate court’s ruling holds that Ms. Martinez is entitled to unspecified monetary damages for the period during which the benefits were denied.
The Times reported that it was unclear whether the college or Monroe County would appeal the ruling. —Don Troop