In a 4-3 decision, New York State's highest court rejected a Christian legal group's argument that same-sex marriage was akin to incest and polygamy, and should therefore be denied government benefits for spouses. But the court's narrow ruling did not address the broader question of whether same-sex marriages performed in other states should be recognized in New York. The minority vote came from judges who argued that the case should have been tossed altogether, "on the ground that same-sex marriages, valid where performed, are entitled to full legal recognition in New York."

Instead, the majority opinion expressed "hope that the Legislature will address this controversy." Still, Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle told the AP, "It absolutely builds momentum. It's another court saying the state Senate should act and clarify the issue." Legally married same-sex couples will now be entitled to public employee health insurance coverage and certain other benefits enjoyed by heterosexual spouses.

The lawyer for the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, which challenged the benefits In New York, had argued that "the only relationship recognized as marriage is the committed union of a man and a woman. State and local officials should not attempt to use marriage laws from outside jurisdictions to place their political agendas ahead of the law." The state Assembly passed a bill earlier this year to legalize same-sex marriage, but it stalled in the Senate.

Last week Governor Paterson promised that Senate leaders had agreed to bring it to a vote by the end of the year. Though the bill's sponsor Senator Thomas Duane says he has the votes to pass it, the AP reports that "the measure appears a few votes short of passage."