New York's Marriage Equality Act was signed into law by Governor Cuomo on June 24, 2011,allowing same-sex couples to marry legally in New York for the first time.
Ven. Lawrence interviewed about Marriage Equality:
New York City has always prided itself on its openness and diversity, and as an openly gay Buddhist monk and licensed Wedding officiant, I am elated that marriage equality is now a reality for all of us here in New York! Whether you are a native New Yorker or someone who has dreamed of having your wedding in New York City, that opportunity is now yours.
If any of the following information does not answer all of your questions, please contact Lambda Legal for more help.
It's important to keep in mind that getting married in New York City is a multi-step process. Couples must complete an application and receive a Marriage License at the City Clerk's office before they can legally wed.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS about New York's Marriage Equality Act:
The Marriage Equality Act grants same-sex couples the freedom to marry in New York. New York is now the sixth—and by far the largest—state to allow same-sex couples to marry, more than doubling the percentage of Americans who live in states with fair marriage laws and affecting more than42,000 same-sex couples raising 14,000 children in the state.
The law states that marriage licenses cannot be denied to same-sex couples, and that no government or private entity can deny the rights, benefits or protections of marriage to same-sex couples who are legally wed. Furthermore, any state law that uses gender-specific terms to describe spousal rights and responsibilities will now be interpreted in a gender-neutral manner. Valid marriages from other states and countries with fair marriage laws will continue to be recognized in New York, and will be treated the same as in-state marriages.
Who can get married in New York City, now that the Marriage Equality Act has passed?
The Marriage Equality Act allows eligible same-sex couples to get married in New York just like opposite-sex couples, with the same rights, responsibilities, and benefits under State and City law. For detailed information about age and other eligibility requirements for all couples, please see cityclerk.nyc.gov.
Can we get married in New York City even if we don't live there?
Yes. Couples who reside in New York or in another state or country are welcome to marry here.
However, depending on where you live, you should be aware that your home state may not recognize your marriage as valid. Your New York marriage will be respected as a marriage in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia. In addition, based on advisory opinions by their attorneys general, Maryland, New Mexico and Rhode Island currently recognize the validity of same-sex marriages performed in states with fair marriage laws. Some other states, including New Jersey, California and Washington, have established partial recognition of some of the rights and benefits generally associated with out-of-state marriages. Unfortunately, most other states currently have laws, constitutional provisions or controlling appellate court decisions that deny recognition to the marriages of same-sex couples. Even in these states, however, many private parties, businesses and municipalities may choose to recognize the validity of your New York marriage. This area of the law is highly unsettled in many states. Consult an attorney with specific questions about your rights as a married couple in a state that does not have fair marriage laws.
There are some other important issues you should consider before you make the decision to wed in New York. First, New York’s divorce laws require that, in order for a New York court to have jurisdiction over a divorce, usually at least one partner must have resided in the state continuously for at least a year preceding the court action. Because many states that do not have fair marriage laws also refuse to grant divorces to same-sex couples, out-of-state couples may find themselves without a ready means to dissolve their New York marriage.
In addition, if you are in the process of adopting a child or planning to adopt a child with your partner, but you live in a jurisdiction that does not permit adoptions by same-sex couples—but does allow adoption by “single" individuals—getting married in New York could affect your ability to adopt. Finally, if you have a vulnerable immigration status, getting married in New York could have unintended negative immigration consequences. You should consult an attorney about these matters before making your marriage decision.
Can my spouse and I get married in New York City if we already were married in another state or country?
Yes. You and your spouse can get married again in New York even if you were previously married in another jurisdiction. (Under existing law, the State of New York recognizes valid marriages performed elsewhere, including same-sex marriage. If you have questions about whether to get married again in New York, please talk to a lawyer.)
How do we get a Marriage License in New York City?
Fill out an application, either online or at the City Clerk's office. In either case, you and your prospective spouse must visit the City Clerk's office to complete the application process and receive your Marriage License. State law does not permit proxy marriage, so both you and your intended spouse must appear personally at the City Clerk's office. If you are a same-sex couple, you may start your online application now, but you should NOT appear at the City Clerk's office before July 24, 2011. Applications for same-sex marriages cannot be processed until then. (Also, by law, paper applications for a Marriage License cannot be filled out in advance of your visit to the City Clerk's office.)
Should we go online to begin the application process ahead of time?
Beginning the application process online helps in two ways. First, it will save you time when you appear at the City Clerk's office because you will not have to fill out a paper application—just be sure to bring your confirmation number. Second, it will give the City Clerk an idea of how many couples are applying. Beginning the application process online does not, in any way, guarantee you a space in line or preferential treatment once you appear at the City Clerk's office.
What should we bring when we visit the City Clerk's office to get our Marriage License?
You must bring valid, government-issued identification and the necessary fees. It is also a good idea to bring proof of any previously terminated marriage(s). The following types of identification are acceptable:
• Driver's license, non-driver identification card, or learner's permit, with photograph, from any state or United States territory
• Active United States Military Identification Card
• Valid passport
• United States Certificate of Naturalization (less than 10 years old)
• United States Alien Registration Card
• United States Employment Authorization Card
The City Clerk's fee for a Marriage License is $35, with an additional fee of $25 for your civil marriage ceremony (see more below). Fees are payable with money order or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express). Cash and personal checks are not accepted.
You can get a license from any clerk in the state, and you can use that license to get married anywhere in New York.
You do not have to, but one or both spouses may change their last name by entering the new name in the appropriate space provided on the marriage license. If you do change your name, you should follow up with your local Social Security Administration office to update them on the change, and you should change other identifying documents (driver’s license, passport) with the appropriate agency.
If I am from outside New York, do I need a Letter or Certificate of Non-Impediment or proof of eligibility from my home town or home country to get married in New York?
No. New York law does not require anyone from outside the State of New York to bring a Letter or Certificate of Non-Impediment or proof of eligibility in order to obtain a Marriage License here.
Once we have a license, when can our marriage ceremony be performed?
To be legally married, you must have a civil or religious marriage ceremony performed after obtaining a Marriage License. State law generally requires you to wait 24 hours after receiving your license before holding your marriage ceremony.
Where can our marriage ceremony be held, and who can perform it?
With a Marriage License from the New York City Clerk, a civil or religious marriage ceremony can be held anywhere in the State of New York. It must be performed by someone who is certified as a Marriage Officiant by the City of New York.
Do we need a witness for our ceremony?
Yes, you need at least one witness 18 years of age or older. After your marriage ceremony, the couple, the person who performs the ceremony, and the witness(es) must all sign the Marriage License.
Can I change my surname (last name) when I get married?
Yes. The application for a Marriage License offers various options for keeping or changing your surname. If you choose to change your surname, the change takes effect legally once your marriage ceremony is held. You cannot change your first or middle name through marriage.
Where do we go to obtain a Marriage License and?
The City Clerk has office locations in each of the five boroughs: Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island.
141 Worth Street
New York, NY 10013
Hours: 8:30am–3:45pm, Monday through Friday
Supreme Court Building
851 Grand Concourse, Room B131
Bronx, NY 10451
Hours: 8:30am to 4pm, Monday through Friday
Brooklyn Municipal Building
210 Joralemon Street, Room 205
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Hours: 8:30am–4pm, Monday through Friday
Borough Hall Building
120-55 Queens Boulevard, Ground Floor, Room X001
Kew Gardens, NY 11424
Hours: 8:30 am–4pm, Monday through Friday
Staten Island Office
Borough Hall Building
10 Richmond Terrace, Room 311
Staten Island, NY 10301
The Marriage Equality Act gives married same-sex couples the same rights, responsibilities, and benefits that married opposite-sex couples have under State and City law. There are significant differences in the rights and benefits afforded under federal law and the laws of most other jurisdictions. Those differences may extend to federally funded programs administered by New York State and New York City. For more specific guidance, please consult a legal professional.
Will our New York marriage be recognized outside of New York?
Some states recognize same-sex marriages performed in New York, but the federal government and many other states do not. Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, D.C. all recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Illinois, New Jersey and Hawaii (as of January 1, 2012) recognize same-sex marriages as civil unions, and the State of Washington recognizes same-sex marriages as domestic partnerships. A civil union or a domestic partnership may carry different status in those places.
No. Nothing in the new marriage law or New York anti-discrimination laws allows a civil servant otherwise required to issue licenses for civil marriages to refuse to do so because of personal beliefs or religious objections. When town and city clerks review marriage license applications, they act on behalf of the State of New York. For that reason, they may not treat one group of applicants differently from another group solely because of personal religious objections. If you have any issues or problems with a clerk, please contact us immediately.
Are there any differences in the process for same-sex marriage and opposite-sex marriage in New York City?
No. Under the Marriage Equality Act, New York City will offer same-sex marriages and opposite-sex marriages following the same process.
Can we choose to be domestic partners instead of getting married?
Yes. As before the Marriage Equality Act, eligible same-sex and opposite-sex couples can still choose to form domestic partnerships. Domestic partners are entitled to a smaller subset of rights and privileges than those granted to married couples. Visit cityclerk.nyc.gov for information about domestic partnership registration.
If we are currently domestic partners and now want to get married, do we first need to terminate our domestic partnership?
No. Getting married automatically terminates a domestic partnership, so no additional act other than the marriage is required.
A marriage gives you automatic access to all the protections granted to spouses under state and local laws. State-based marriage rights include:
- State tax benefits. Married same-sex couples will now be able to file joint state tax returns, take spousal deductions on state income taxes, exclude employer contributions for spousal health insurance from taxable income for state taxes, exempt property inherited from spouses from state estate tax, and receive tax benefits when transferring interests in property. (The Department of Taxation has published helpful tax advice for couples here.) However, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—the federal law that precludes the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples—will continue to prevent same-sex couples from jointly filing their federal taxes (click here for a longer discussion of DOMA’s effects).
- Insurance benefits. Unfortunately, this is a somewhat complicated issue. State and municipal employees are entitled to benefits for their same-sex spouses. Likewise, any private employer that offers insurance through a state-licensed insurance agency must extend benefits to same-sex spouses on the same terms as to other married couples. Many private employers, however, offer “self-funded" health insurance that is not affected by the new law. The employers who offer “self-funded" insurance are not required to offer health insurance coverage to same-sex spouses, although they can. If your employer denies you spousal coverage, you should ask them to reconsider their position. Nothing in state or federal law prohibits them from doing so. It is important to note that DOMA penalizes married same-sex spouses by requiring them to pay federal taxes on the value of the benefits they obtain through their spouse’s employer, unlike other married couples.
- Health care and family leave. Spouses enjoy special rights to make decisions related to emergency medical care for each other and to visit a spouse who is ill. Working spouses will also be entitled to family medical leave and bereavement leave.
- Inheritance, property ownership and transfer rights. Beyond inheritance protections in probate court proceedings, many laws make it easier for spouses to transfer or jointly own property.
- Parental rights. Both spouses will be listed as parents where a child is born to two married women. This does not apply to children born to a couple before they are married. (Married men having a child through a surrogate will still need to follow a more complicated set of procedures which they should consult with an attorney about.) Due to inadequate protections in other states or countries that do not recognize valid marriages of same-sex couples, however, we strongly advise couples to obtain second-parent adoptions by the non-biological parent, even if both spouses are listed as parents on a birth certificate. A court-ordered adoption ensures legal respect for both spouses’ parental status by the federal government and other jurisdictions that may not recognize marriages of same-sex couples. Consult an attorney for further advice.
- Workers’ compensation and wrongful death claims. Spouses may receive workers’ compensation benefits if a spouse dies in the workplace, and they may bring a wrongful death lawsuit and related civil claims that are dependent on marital status.
- Cemetery plots. Same-sex spouses have the same rights as different-sex spouses to possession, care, control and succession to ownership of, and right of interment in, a public cemetery plot.
- Spousal privilege. In legal proceedings, discussions between spouses are protected from disclosure in court by asserting spousal privilege.
- Family law. Spouses may utilize state and local judicial forums in proceedings relating to separation, divorce, orders of protection and the care of any children of the couple.
Marriage establishes a number of important legal responsibilities between spouses. These include support obligations in the case of separation or divorce, liability for a spouse’s debts, restrictions on your freedom to make decisions regarding property, and certain inheritance restrictions.
If you would like more information about my wedding services, please call me at 212-989-3456 or email.