Several organizations spoke out May 29 against New York Gov. David Paterson’s recent memo directing state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages.
“The administrative action by Gov. Paterson compelling all state agencies to recognize same-sex ‘marriages’ performed in other states is an unwelcome bypassing of the state legislature,” Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, said in a statement.
In his memo, Paterson referenced the lawsuit Monroe Community College employee Patricia Martinez brought against Monroe County after her employer refused to grant benefits to her female partner. The couple married in Canada in 2004, according to court documents.
The New York State Supreme Court originally ruled that Monroe County was not required to provide benefits for Martinez’s partner, but that decision was later overturned by the court’s Appellate Division, Fourth Department. Monroe County petitioned the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, which rejected the case on technical grounds and sent it back to the state Supreme Court in Rochester in early May.
The state Catholic conference, which is the public-policy arm of New York’s bishops, strongly disagrees with Paterson’s actions. By directing state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages, the governor went back on his earlier promises to work in a collaborative and bipartisan style, Barnes said in the statement.
The definition of marriage is an ancient building block in our society, and no single politician, court or legislature should attempt to redefine it in such a way that alters its entire meaning and purpose, he said. Marriage between a man and a woman is the best way to ensure a stable upbringing for children, which will allow society to flourish, and marriage should not be treated as simply another lifestyle choice, he noted.
“Homosexual men and women must be treated with dignity by all. In cases where unjust discrimination occurs, it must be remedied,” Barnes said. “However, just as the state cannot declare a man to be a ‘mother’ or a woman to be a ‘father,’ it cannot declare a same-sex union to be a ‘marriage.’ To use a distinctly New York expression, ‘It is what it is.'”
The Coalition to Save Marriage in New York, the Conservative Party of New York State, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and Concerned Women for America of New York joined the state Catholic conference in decrying Paterson’s actions. The governor has taken a huge step backward with his most recent actions, Stephen P. Hayford, spokesman for the marriage coalition, said in a statement.
“When elected officials take actions that exceed the scope of their authority, they erode our trust in government,” he said. “At a time when (Gov. Paterson) ought to be building consensus and restoring the confidence of the public, he has chosen to take a divisive position and to override our State Legislature, which has not legalized same-sex marriage. The flawed decision recently issued by the Appellate Division, Fourth Department — which may yet be reversed on appeal — is a flimsy justification for the governor’s action.”
The governor’s directive is an attack on marriage and the family, according to a statement from the Rev. Jason McGuire of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms.
“By taking this action, Gov. Paterson has usurped the function of our Legislature and has forced his radical social views upon our state,” McGuire said.