An Interesting Condundrum
Now, I find this interesting:
A gay man charged with helping his lover loot a wealthy school district has asked a judge to rule that state law protecting spouses from having to testify against each other also applies to same-sex partners.
Stephen Signorelli, fighting charges that he stole at least $219,000 from the Roslyn, New York, school district, is seeking to bar testimony by his longtime companion, Frank Tassone, the district’s former superintendent.
In a motion filed before a judge in Nassau County, Signorelli sought to bar such an appearance, saying he and Tassone deserved the same protection as a heterosexual couple.
"Mr. Tassone and I have been loving partners for 33 years," Signorelli said in an affidavit, adding that the two had participated in "a solemn religious ceremony" conducted while they were on a Caribbean cruise, "to memorialize our relationship and love for one another."
The two also registered as domestic partners in New York City, where they live, in 2002.
Pretty much everyone who reads the Whatever knows that I’m all for same sex marriage; having said that, in my "I am not a lawyer" way, I would be very surprised if a judge would allow this. For better or for worse, I suspect having a domestic partnership in New York City doesn’t translate to an extension of marriage-like rights in other jurisdictions. I’m not sure whether the judge in question is a county, state or federal judge, but I am reasonably sure Nassau county is not in New York City. One would also need reasonably ask if an unmarried heterosexual couple in the same situation would enjoy spousal protection; I doubt it.
(And what would really be interesting would be if a same-sex couple, married in Massachusetts, would be able to argue for spousal protections outside of that commonwealth; that would put the federal Defense of Marriage Act right in the cross-hairs.)
If I were the judge, I would deny the request; unless New York law has some quirk I don’t know about (which is entirely possible as I don’t live in New York and — once again — I’m not a lawyer), it’s pretty clear the law doesn’t allow unmarried couples to enjoy spousal privileges (not including NYC’s domestic partner laws, the problems surrounding which I’ve already noted). One could certainly advance the idea that same-sex partners should be able to marry, but there’s a difference between saying same-sex partners should be able to marry, and that they already enjoy certain spousal protections.
This does make me glad, however, that the person to whom I’ve bound my life will not be made to testify against me in any future embezzlement cases. Not that I have any embezzlement planned, mind you. Even so.
Naturally, I am curious to hear your thoughts on this matter (the proposed advancing of spousal protections, that is, not any future embezzlement on my part). Lawyers — particularly ones who know New York law — are especially invited to chime in.