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N.Y. Retirement System to Grant Marriage Benefits to Same-sex Couples Married in Canada

'Based on current law, the Retirement System will recognize a same-sex Canadian marriage in the same manner as an opposite-sex New York marriage, under the principle of comity.' --State Comptroller Al
( [email protected] ) Oct 14, 2004 08:33 PM EDT

The New York State and Local Retirement System, the second largest pension system in the nation, will grant the same pensions benefits to same-sex couples married in Canada as partners of married heterosexual couples, according to State Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

In a Oct. 8 letter, released Wednesday, Hevesi said a 1980 ruling by the New York Supreme Court supports extending benefits of heterosexual spouses to homosexual married couples in Canada for retirement purposes in New York, where same-sex marriages remain illegal. As the comptroller, Hevesi has complete control over the state pension system, which covers nearly 1 million current and former government employees in the state.

"Based on current law, the Retirement System will recognize a same-sex Canadian marriage in the same manner as an opposite-sex New York marriage, under the principle of comity,” he wrote.

Hevesi’s letter came as a response to a letter from public employee Mark Daigneault questioning the matter.

While Massachusetts remains the only state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriages, The New York State and Local Retirement System, according to pro-homosexual group Empire State Pride Agenda, is the first government entity in New York state to recognize same-sex marriages as legally identical to marriages between heterosexuals.

"It ensures that all families in New York have what they need to take care of themselves, particularly in times of crisis like the death of the main provider for the family,” said the group’s Executive Director Alan Van Capelle.

Michael Long who heads the state Conservative Party in favor of a constitutional amendment banning homosexual marriage has threatened suit against Hevesi’s decision.

"This is theft of the taxpayers' money and pension funds," Long said, noting that the decision would force many private pension funds in New York to follow the same “slippery slope” as Hevesi.

While Massachusetts remains the only state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage, religious and pro-family groups, who believe marriage should be a union between a man and a woman only, fear Hevesi’s decision will only further the pro-homosexual agenda and “help pave the way for same-sex marriage in New York state.”

Roman Catholic bishops in New York are worried the act “will be one more piece of evidence to bolster the legal case for anyone bringing suit to challenge the state's marriage laws,” said Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the state Catholic Conference.