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New York health insurer to give spousal benefits to married same-sex couples

[JURIST] The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) [advocacy website] has announced that health insurance company BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York [corporate website] has agreed to extend health-care benefits [NYCLU press release] to spouses in validly married same-sex couples. In February, judges for a New York state appeals court unanimously ruled [text, PDF; JURIST report] that the state must legally recognize valid out-of-state same-sex marriages. Following that ruling, the NYCLU filed a lawsuit [NYCLU backgrounder] in early July after the insurance company refused to provide coverage for a woman's same-sex spouse, even though the women had legally married in Canada in 2006. In response to the company's recent decision, NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman said Monday:

We applaud Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Western New York for following the law and treating all married couples the same. Families who were denied coverage up until this point will now be able to protect themselves with health care coverage.
NYCLU lawyers have said that they are still seeking monetary damages for the couple's prior out-of-pocket expenses. UPI has more. The Buffalo News has local coverage.

California and Massachusetts [JURIST reports] are the only two US states to formally recognize same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive]. Unlike Massachusetts, California does not impose residency restrictions, but the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill [text; JURIST report] earlier this month to overturn the restriction and the state House of Representatives followed suit [bill text, PDF; AP report] on Tuesday. Several other states permit same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive], and in May New York Governor David Paterson ordered [memo, PDF; JURIST report] that state agencies recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages as legal marriages in New York. Many states have banned same-sex unions through statutes or amendments.

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