Bishops Defend Marriage in New York

The New York State Catholic Conference filed an amicus brief in a defense-of-marriage case.

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 New York.

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 unions.

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 contracted elsewhere.

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 out.

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

Wallingford, Connecticut.

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