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The New York State Catholic Conference filed an amicus brief in a defense-of-marriage case.
BY Stephen VincentRegister Correspondent
ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York State
Catholic Conference has filed an amicus brief at the state’s highest court,
challenging the recognition of same-sex “marriages” formed legally outside of
The brief, prepared by the
Chicago-based Thomas More Society, calls for defending marriage between a man
and a woman as a natural and social institution that is contracted for the
procreation of children and the common good.
It was filed in late August after
the New York Court of Appeals decided that the Catholic Conference could
intervene in the case. It was the second time the conference, which represents
the state’s Catholic bishops, was allowed to file a brief on a same-sex
“marriage” case in the state.
In its previous filing, the case led
to the Court of Appeals ruling that the state constitution does not compel New
York to allow marriages of same-sex couples.
“We’ve had a pretty good track
record in our filings, working with the Thomas More Society,” said Dennis
Poust, spokesman for the Catholic Conference. “The state’s bishops have given
their approval for us to file amicus briefs in cases where it looks like we can
do some good and defend the institution of marriage” as the exclusive union of
one man and one woman.
The brief argues that since the
state’s highest court previously ruled that New York’s constitution does not
require the recognition of same-sex “marriage,” and such marriages are against
the long-standing public policy of the state, the court should rule that
same-sex “marriages” contracted outside the state need not be recognized.
Though there have been bills in the
state Legislature to legalize homosexual “marriage,” and Gov. David Paterson is
a strong supporter, New York has not joined other states in the Northeast such
as Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut in legalizing such
Last April, Paterson, who is black,
compared the push for same-sex “marriage” to the 19th-century fight against
slavery and called a homosexual “marriage” bill brought to the state
Legislature a “landmark civil-rights legislation” that would enshrine a
“fundamental civil right of marriage.”
The bill failed to pass and was one
cause of upheaval and party defections in the state Capitol that led to the
temporary shutdown of the Legislature.
However, some same-sex “marriages”
have been approved in New York since May of 2008, when Paterson announced that
he had issued an executive order instructing all state agencies to recognize
marriages of same-sex couples who move or return to New York after contracting
legal marriages outside the state.
He said he was acting to protect the
state from lawsuits from homosexual couples after an upstate lower court ruled
that New York must recognize out-of-state homosexual “marriages.”
A trial court in the Bronx upheld
the validity of Paterson’s executive order after opponents of same-sex
“marriage” claimed that he had overstepped his authority.
“We realize that it’s an uphill
battle against same-sex ‘marriage’ in New York when you have the governor
pushing for it,” Poust said. “But then again, the Court of Appeals has shown a
willingness to uphold marriage.”
In arguing against the recognition
of same-sex “marriage,” the brief cites “our Judeo-Christian moral heritage”
and “the long-standing tradition of Western law” that consider marriage “a
natural and social institution” which is “reserved for opposite-sex couples so
that they may procreate and raise children.”
Recognition of same-sex “marriages”
would undermine this traditional understanding and “would violate the public
policy of the state as set forth in the Domestic Relations Law,” the brief
continues. “Nothing in the [Court of Appeals’] jurisprudence requires
recognition of such marriages.”
Paul Linwood, who wrote the brief on
behalf of the state’s Catholic Conference, said that as a general rule, New
York and other states accept the marriages of couples that are legally
Yet there are exceptions in New York
case law, such as marriages contracted by New York minors outside the state or
unions that would be considered incestuous under New York law, Linwood pointed
The general rule found in state law,
Linwood claimed, is that New York has never recognized an existing and intact
marriage contracted outside the state that could not also have been contracted
under state law. Since same-sex “marriage” is not recognized in New York, such
marriages formed outside the state need to be recognized when the couples come
to New York.
It is a subtle argument that brings
into view numerous cases and a particular reading of each one. To accept the
argument, the high court must overturn a lower court ruling that has been
generally accepted for more than a year.
Linwood said the brief shows that
“there is no state constitutional right to engage in same-sex ‘marriage.’”
Stephen Vincent writes from