Same sex marriage legal questions linger

JULIE LANE PHOTO | New York City Family Court Justice Emily Olshanski and attorney Karen Funk during Sunday's forum.

About 100 gay women — some already married and others contemplating taking that step now that it’s legal in New York  — left a forum at the town recreation center in Peconic Sunday with as many questions as they had coming in the door.

That’s not because the forum, sponsored by North Fork Women for Women Fund, wasn’t comprehensive. Rather, it’s because the new law passed June 24 hasn’t yet been tested in the courts.

A panel of legal  and tax experts  shared their advice with caveats about how complex marriage-related laws, even for  heterosexual couples.

“The purpose of this panel is to identify the issues,” said moderator and attorney Mary Dorman. Whether or not couples proceed to the altar, panelists agreed it’s critical to have several documents in place, including a will, health care proxy, living will and durable power of attorney. That’s because even if all rights afforded heterosexual sexual couples in New York accrue to same sex couples, there’s no national recognition of same sex marriage and outside of states where it’s sanctioned, there are no such protections for gay couples.

There are also questions about how state law applies to same-sex couples who married in other states or countries prior to enactment of New York’s law.

While some attendees left convinced they might not benefit from marriage, others who took the step in other states aren’t looking back.

Complete coverage of the forum will appear in Thursday’s Suffolk Times.