New York Marriage Questions and Answers
Frequently asked questions about the New York law granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
For specific information about getting married in New York City, please visit the City Clerk's website.
What is the new law and how did it come into effect?
On June 24, 2011, the New York Senate voted 33-29 to pass marriage equality, following a vote of 80-63 in the Assembly on June 16, 2011. Notably, it passed in both chambers with bipartisan support. The bill provides, in relevant part, that "a marriage that is otherwise valid shall be valid regardless of whether the parties to the marriage are of the same or different sex."
When did the new law take effect?
The law took effect on July 24, 2011.
How do I obtain a marriage license in New York?
Laws regarding marriage licenses vary from state to state and may change. Regulations exist regarding waiting periods, age restrictions, proof of identity, and even who may perform the wedding ceremony. These restrictions apply to all couples, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. To ensure that you are complying with New York law, please view the rules, regulations, and directions provided by the New York Department of Health.
What rights and responsibilities do same-sex couples who legally marry receive in New York?
Same-sex spouses receive the same rights and responsibilities provided to different-sex spouses under New York law. According to a joint report by Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) and the New York City Bar Association there are over 1,300 such rights and responsibilities, including, health care decision-making for an incapacitated spouse, property rights and inheritance rights. (Please note that the report is from 2007; to the best of our knowledge, the listing of spousal rights and responsibilities in New York remains relatively up to date, however, marital rights is a dynamic area of law and both courts and the legislature are constantly affecting the rights available.)
Married same-sex couples do not receive access to the more than 1,100 federal rights and responsibilities associated with marriage, because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and the new law in New York does not change that.
What do I have to do if I'm a New York resident who is legally married in another jurisdiction?
You do not have to get married in New York or otherwise register your marriage in New York. In February 2008, an intermediate appellate court ruled that same-sex couples who marry outside New York are entitled to full recognition of their marriages in New York. In May 2008, the Court of Appeals, New York’s high court, unanimously ruled not to review the decision in Martinez v. County of Monroe, letting the appellate court’s ruling stand. On May 14, 2008, Governor Paterson’s legal counsel directed all state agencies to revise rules and regulations in order to provide equal rights, benefits and responsibilities to same-sex couples who marry in other jurisdictions, pursuant to the court’s decision in Martinez.
If you want to receive spousal or family benefits at work, it will be up to you to inform your employer that you are married (or to inform anyone else who is required to recognize your marriage), and it is possible that you will have to provide a marriage certificate. However, if, for example, your employer does not require opposite-sex couples to provide a marriage certificate in order to prove the existence of their marriage, then you should not be required to do so either.
In what jurisdictions can same-sex couples in New York marry and have those marriages recognized in New York?
Same-sex couples who legally marry in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont or outside the United States in countries such as Argentina, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain or Sweden, are entitled to have their marriages legally recognized in New York. Couples who legally married in California between May and November of 2008 are also entitled to have their marriages legally recognized in New York.
What does the law mean if I have entered into a registered domestic partnership with my partner in a city or county of New York?
This law does not affect domestic partnership registries, which will continue to be available unless the city/county chooses to terminate the registry. Couples who have registered or will register as domestic partners in Albany, Ithaca, New York City, Rochester, Southampton, Suffolk County or Westchester County, but are not legally married, continue to have access to the limited rights and responsibilities available through the registries. Domestic partnerships do not automatically convert to marriages.