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Redefining Family: Marriage Equality In New York

On July 24, 2011, history was made in the state of New York, when the Marriage Equality Act was passed by the New York Legislature, allowing for the legalization of same-sex marriages in the state. Religious organizations can refuse to conduct or recognize these marriages, under The Marriage Equality Act of 2011. The law does not allow for any penalties to be taken against the religious groups. However, there is no residency restriction, meaning that any couple can come to the state and take part in a legal marriage ceremony.

This act afforded couples many of the same rights that have long been available to heterosexual couples, including tax benefits, health insurance, Social Security, inheritances, and many other financial benefits. This change reflects how the nation is slowly redefining the traditional notions of “family,” even though at this time, only about 35 states recognize marriage equality.


The arguments for the validity of same-sex marriage have been exchanged for years. In 1996, President Clinton signed a federal ban against same-sex marriage in the Defense of Marriage Act, which essentially defined the institution of marriage as only one man and only one woman. Since then, measures have been taken to challenge this ideal. In 2004, President Bush supported an amendment to this decree. The years that followed began the push for same-sex marriage equality on a statewide level.

It was not until 2006 that a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case, U.S. vs Windsor, which overruled the Defense of Marriage Act. That meant that the federal government had to recognize the validity of same-sex marriages, even if some states did not recognize them. One benefit to this is that federal tax benefits can be applied to these married couples, regardless of whether or not the state in which they live recognizes their union.


New York Legislature made a monumental decision on that day in 2011. Being one of the most populous states in the country, the act granted thousands of couples the ability to reap the many benefits that had long been denied to them.

Some of these benefits include:

  • Spousal support
  • Taking part in partner’s health insurance
  • Hospital visitation rights
  • Receiving inheritances from spouse’s estate
  • Joint tax returns
  • Taking leave to care for spouse
  • Death benefits
  • Receiving compensation on behalf of deceased spouse

All in all, the common link to consider between these is that these are benefits given to families. Recognizing that same-sex marriage functions just as any other family is a major reason why legalizing the unions is such a significant step. Furthermore, same-sex marriages have been able to generate over $250 million in revenue for the state, and $16 million for New York City alone. Not only does this exemplify forward-thinking, it displays an ability for governments to evolve and do what is best for its people and the economy.


If you or your partner are preparing for marriage, you should be aware of all the rights and benefits that your union is entitled to. Even if you feel that you have everything in place, it may be a good idea to have a support system behind you. When you speak to a New York divorce attorney at Peter L. Cedeño Associates, P.C., you can have a caring and professional legal team working for you. We respect the needs of all families, and work to see that yours is given the same needs as any other.

Find out more by contacting us, or ask for a free case review. Let us help you the best way we can!




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