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Gay Marriage in Connecticut Could Add Pressure in New York The Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex couples have a right to marry puts a second state on New York’s border where gay marriage is legal. The 4-3 court held Friday that denying marriage to same-sex partners creates separate standards under Connecticut law for heterosexual and homosexual couples. The chairman of the judiciary committee in the Connecticut Legislature, Senator Michael Lawlor, said he expects lawmakers to pass a gay-marriage statute next year codifying Friday’s ruling. On July 31, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill into law legalizing same-sex marriages in Massachusetts ( NYLJ, Aug. 1). Same-sex marriages are also legal in California and Canada. The New York Court of Appeals ruled that same-sex marriages are not legal in Hernandez v. Robles, 7 NY3d 338 (2006), but legal observers think the issue could come back to the Court in the form of an appeal of Martinez v. County of Monroe, where the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, ruled that a gay couple’s marriage in Canada should be recognized in New York. Matrimonial law specialist Lee Rosenberg of Saltzman, Chetkof & Rosenberg in Garden City said the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and Connecticut will inevitably lead to more married gay couples in New York attempting to assert their out-of-state matrimonial rights. “I think it certainly is going to put pressure on the courts,” Mr. Rosenberg said Friday. “It puts further emphasis on the necessity to deal with this issue one way or another [in New York]. Ultimately, there is going to be more litigation.” Governor David A. Paterson, citing concerns about litigation by same-sex couples, has ordered all state agencies to extend the public benefits and rights given to married couples to same-sex couples wed in jurisdictions where gay marriage is legal ( NYLJ, May 30). - Joel Stashenko Lawsuit Proceeds Against State Over Hevesi Press Release A judge dismissed the state’s motion for summary judgment in a $1 million suit filed by an upstate court clerk who contends she was defamed in a press release by former Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s office. Court of Claims Judge Judith A. Hard ( See Profile) ruled that papers filed by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo’s office on the motion failed to provide her with enough information to determine whether the state is entitled to a qualified immunity defense that is normally invoked in cases of erroneous, but nonmalicious, public pronouncements by state agencies. A May 2006 press release from Mr. Hevesi’s office mistakenly identified Lori A. Dankert, clerk for the Town of Perrysburg Court in Cattaraugus, as having pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and having paid $5,147 in restitution. Ms. Dankert, who remains the clerk to the court in the 400-person town, never committed a crime, did not plead guilty nor paid restitution. She sued the state after Mr. Hevesi’s office revised the information on its Web site but refused to issue a corrected press release, according to Judge Hard. State courts have generally ruled that because it is the duty of designated state agency personnel to respond to inquiries from the media, they have qualified immunity unless plaintiffs in defamation actions can show actual malice in public employees’ dissemination of erroneous information. (See Feldschuh v. State of New York, 240 AD2d 914 [1997].) But Judge Hard ruled in Dankert v. State of New York, 112724, that the motion for summary judgment and other papers filed by the attorney general’s office did not provide the requisite information for her to determine if qualified immunity applied in Ms. Dankert’s case, such as who issued the news release with the erroneous information and whether that person was acting within his or her duties. The state could seek to file another motion for summary judgment or allow the matter to go to trial, when it could present more information on the qualified immunity defense. A spokesman from Mr. Cuomo’s office said the ruling is being reviewed. - Joel Stashenko

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