In a NYC Press Conference, New State Agency Introduced, What DFS Investigation Means For LGBT Couples
By Nathan James
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a new state agency, and announced a wide-ranging probe of the way life-insurance companies pay out death claims at a Manhattan press conference this morning. He also reaffirmed his support of marriage equality, which was a strong plank in his gubernatorial campaign, amd which the governor signed into law last summer.
The new agency, the Department of Financial Services (DFS), was created by merging the state’s Banking and insurance departments, Cuomo said. Appearing with him was DFS Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky, who elaborated about an “ongoing investigation” into why the 172 life insurers in New York State were slow to seek out beneficiaries of policyholders who pass away. As more gay and lesbian couples marry in New York, this issue has ramifications for their future security, and, as Lawsky highlighted, “insurance companies could very easily cross-check the data index” to ascertain the status of their clients.
The governor amplified the DFS chief’s remarks, saying, “[Insurers] are quick to stop paying annuities when someone passes away, but they don’t check to see if a customer has died”. He cited DFS’ “mandate” in carrying out the government’s function of assuring “fairness and equality” for all New Yorkers. Gay and lesbian couples, who buy life insurabce and name each other as beneficiaries, as well as all insurance customers, can see if they are owed unclaimed funds at DFS’ website, www.nypolicyfinder.com. Lawsky says the database “goes back to 1969″.
In further remarks on the theme of equality, Gov. Cuomo, speaking to GBM News, reiterated his support for gay marriage, calling the legislation “one of the real, great great accomplishments we made”. “It’s exactly right,” said Cuomo, “that we don’t discriminate in our state. We did it because it was the right thing to do.”
New York is one of only eight states (and the federal District of Columbia) to pass a law legalizing same-sex marriage. California’s gay-marriage law, overturned by referendum, is working its way through the federal court system to the Supreme Court. Although Cuomo was instrumental in getting marriage equality passed, he had no comment on the larger issue of the federal Defense Of Marriage Act, (DOMA) which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal.
DOMA repeal is a topic of great interest to the LGBT community, and will likely end up before the Supreme Court, something First Lady Michelle Obama touched on in a recent stump speech for her husband in New York City. “[Future Supreme Court judges] will make decisions about our privacy and security, whether we can speak freely, worship openly, and, yes, love whomever we choose,” said Mrs. Obama.