The court of appeal in New York is to hear two cases brought by gay rights opponents today.

The first case relates to a 2007 policy that gives health insurance benefits to the partners of state and local government employees who married in other states.

The second regards an administrative order from 2006 which means county officials must recognise same-sex unions performed in other states.

Both cases are being represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian legal organisation, which is against gay marriage and gay adoption, and for the continuing of the military gay ban.

It has lost the fights in lower courts and argues that the policies are “illegal, unconstitutional, and resulted in the unlawful disbursement of public funds”.

New York’s Senate will soon have to decide whether gay marriage should be legal in the state.

A bill to legalise same-sex marriage passed the New York Assembly 89-52 in May and the Senate is now its final hurdle, as governor David Paterson has strongly signalled he will sign it if it reaches his desk.

The move would make New York the sixth state to legalise same-sex marriage after Vermont, Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. It is legal in Maine but is on hold due to opponents getting it on the November ballot. It was briefly allowed in California until a referendum stripped gay couples of the right.

In 2007, a similar bill passed the Assembly 85-61 but failed in the Senate.