Can I Marry In NY If I’m Married Elsewhere?

Scales of JusticeWell, congratulations New York! Just in time for Pride, the Empire State has proved itself worthy of its motto, excelsior. And faster than you can say, “I love New York,” Mayor Bloomberg has announced that the State has every intention of seizing the opportunity to embrace the droves of LGBT I-doers with a not-so-originally-named campaign: “NYC I Do.”

Even before Prop 8 The Musical, we’ve been touting the virtues of the capitalist angle on gay marriage and finally it seems the world (and our economy) is ready for LGBT vows and the receptions that will, no doubt, accompany them. And we are ready to put on our dancing shoes in New York for any of our friends that decide to take their vows there, but we do wonder just a little bit about some of the advice on the FAQ for the new campaign site.


A Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples


Here’s what the site says:

Can my spouse and I get married in New York City if we were already married in another state or country?

Yes. You and your spouse can get married again in New York, whether you reside here or not. (Note: New York already recognizes lawful marriages, including same-sex marriages, that were performed elsewhere.)

Yes, we suppose that’s technically true. You and your current spouse can, essentially, retake your vows in New York. But if you took part in a legally valid marriage prior to your marriage in New York, the previous marriage is the one that binds you (in those states that recognize same-sex marriages) and will be recognized by New York now, too – even as you’re standing in New York retaking your vows.

We wish that the boundaries on this one were spelled out a little bit more clearly so we’ll do our best to fill in more detail. So, listen up, because this is important!

If you or your spouse took part in a valid marriage ceremony to someone else (of whatever gender) before contemplating marrying each other in New York (or some other state), you CANNOT now get married without committing bigamy unless you’ve gone through the hassle (and it can be a hassle) of un-doing your previous marriage.

If you don’t know whether you’re married or not – check with an attorney. This is one aisle you don’t want to walk down without making sure you’re in the clear.

As always, we welcome your questions and encourage you to ask them before your big day.

Legally Yours,

Heather & Emily




Photo Credit: © Tmcnem | Dreamstime.com

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Heather McCabe and Emily Russell are family law practitioners who regularly serve the LGBT community in all kinds of legal affairs – from adoptions to dissolutions/divorces. McCabe has taught family law and legal writing and has been on the faculty at Georgetown Law, American University, and University of Baltimore. Russell worked as a lobbyist before coming to the law. Whether through document drafting, mediation, collaborative law, or litigation, McCabe and Russell are committed to the creation and security of the unique families they serve.