NEW YORK -- An appeals court is weighing whether New York should recognize a gay civil union from Vermont and allow a Long Island man to sue a Manhattan hospital for malpractice in the death of his longtime partner.
The court will decide to uphold or overturn a Long Island judge's ruling that John Langan could sue St. Vincent's Hospital for allegedly mishandling the case of his partner, Neal Conrad Spicehandler, who died at the hospital after he was hit by a car in Manhattan.
The case turns on whether Langan and Spicehandler's 2000 civil union in Vermont made Langan a spouse with the right to sue the hospital under New York law.
Nassau County Supreme Court Justice John Dunne ruled in Langan's favor last year, but the hospital appealed. A four-judge panel heard oral arguments yesterday.
Some gay rights advocates said they believe a victory for Langan could lay the foundation for New York to recognize gay marriages from Massachusetts and countries such as Canada and Belgium. "This is an important step, but it doesn't usher in gay marriage in New York state," said Katherine Franke, a specialist in gay rights and constitutional law at Columbia University School of Law.