The Court of Appeals of the State of New York ruled last Friday that gay marriages or civil partnerships conducted in other states or countries are to be legally recognised in the state.

Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union said: “This is a victory for families, it’s a victory for fairness and it’s a victory for human rights. Now we need to work toward a New York where you don’t have to cross state or country lines to get married.”

Only a handfull of US states allow gay unions and they are unconstitutional in more than half of the states in America.

The court ruling was based on a case original brought by Patricia Martinez, and her wife Lisa Golden who had married in Canada the year before.

The court of appeal ruled on Friday that gay married couples are: “entitled to recognition in New York in the absence of express legislation to the contrary.”

“The Legislature may decide to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages solemnized abroad. Until it does so, however, such marriages are entitled to recognition in New York.”

The case was originally lodged after Mrs Martinez’s employer, Monroe County and Monroe Community College refused to offer married couple benefits to her partner.

The lesbian speaker of New York City Council said: “If this is saying companies have to do it, it’s a tremendous step forward in recognizing the diversity of families in New York City.”