NY State prison officials are allowing conjugal visits for gay inmates involved in same-sex marriages or civil unions.
Recent regulation changes will also allow gay prisoners to take leave from their cell when their loved one is terminally ill.
From the NY Daily News: "If they seek a furlough based on the partner, it's likely it would be granted," said Peter Cutler, spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services.
"We've been doing it," Cutler said of the leave policy, which previously applied to only traditional marriages.
Cutler said the regulation, which appeared in the state Register this week, formalizes a policy change initiated in 2008 by then-Gov. David Paterson, who ordered New York State agencies to recognize same-sex marriages that were legally performed in other states and civil unions.
Regulations to allow conjugal visits to gay prisoners will only apply to those who are already involved in a marriage or civil union. Though marriage equality has not yet reached New York, the state does recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages and civil unions.
The regulation formalizes a policy change begun in 2008 by then-Gov. David Paterson, who ordered New York State agencies to recognize same-sex marriages that were legally performed in other states and civil unions. Cutler could not explain why it took so long for the regulation to be finalized in the Register, which lists recent rule-making activities by state agencies.
Cutler was unaware of any inmate in a same-sex relationship who has had a conjugal visit, known officially as family reunions. Less than a third of the state's 67 correctional facilities allow conjugal visits. An inmate must be in one of those facilities for a "family reunion" and it must be requested.
Gay marriage advocates welcomed the move, saying any recognition of same-sex relationships is a positive step - even when it occurs in the prisons. "The more the state is consistent with that status of law the better off we are," said Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda.
In 2007, California became the first state to allow for conjugal visits for same-sex couples.
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