Industry Letter

Definition of “Spouse” for purposes of the Banking Law

January 7, 2009

To the Institution Addressed:

Re: Definition of “Spouse” for purposes of the Banking Law

As you may be aware, on February 1, 2008, the Fourth Department issued a decision in Martinez v. County of Monroe, 850 N.Y.S.2d 740 (4th Dep’t 2008) that held that same- sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions are “entitled to recognition in New York in the absence of express legislation to the contrary.” This decision is consistent with the holding of several lower courts.

It is the position of the State of New York Banking Department (the “Department”) that, in interpreting the New York Banking Law and the regulations adopted thereunder by the Banking Board or the Superintendent the terms “spouse”, “husband” and “wife” are to be construed in a manner that includes individuals in legal same sex marriages, unless some other law would bar such an interpretation.

This position will apply to all interpretations of the Banking Law and for all filings made to, or by, the Department. A compendium of New York State statutes and regulations using these terms is available at Examples where the Banking Law uses the term “spouse” can be found in many places, including, but not limited to, Sections 235, 357, 380 and 493. Applications where the term is used include where an applicant seeks to acquire control of a banking institution pursuant to Section 143-b.

Should you have any questions in this regard, please contact Gene Brooks in the Legal Division at (212) 709-1641.

Very truly yours,


Richard H. Neiman
Superintendent of Banks