"All the Requirements of Marriage": A Long Island Man Continues His Fight to Have His Vermont Civil Union Recognized in New York Two Years after His Partner Died in a Hospital

By Neff, Lisa | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), March 16, 2004 | Go to article overview

"All the Requirements of Marriage": A Long Island Man Continues His Fight to Have His Vermont Civil Union Recognized in New York Two Years after His Partner Died in a Hospital


Neff, Lisa, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


Neal Conrad Spicehandler and John Langan cherished their 15-year partnership, sanctioned in a civil union ceremony in Vermont in November 2000, celebrated by 40 friends and relatives. Then tragedy struck. In February 2002, Spicehandler, 41, was injured by a car in a hit-and-run accident in New York City. Suffering a broken leg, tee underwent two surgeries at St. Vincent's Hospital 'in Greenwich Village. But on February 15, 2002, Spicehandler died of a reported embolism after the second operation.

Believing his partner's death was due to hospital negligence, Langan filed a wrongful-death lawsuit, which the hospital challenged, claiming a civil union in Vermont didn't make Langan a legal spouse in New York. But last April, Judge John Dunne ruled that the relationship between Langan and Spicehandler met "all the requirements of a marriage in New York."

"The state court's decision was a tremendous victory for same-sex couples in New York and elsewhere," said Adam Aronson, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund attorney representing Langan. "For many couples, a Vermont civil union is the strongest legal protection available for their relationship."

But the hospital, which would not comment on the case, appealed the ruling, and on January 20, Aronson asked a stale appeals court, to allow the suit to go forward. A ruling is not expected for several weeks. The Advocate talked with Langan, who lives in the Long Island split-level he shared with Spicehandler, about the lawsuit and what it means.

This is the two-year anniversary of Conrad's death. Did you anticipate the fight would take this long?

No, I didn't. …

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