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Maltese sues to block guv’s gay nuptials order

By Jeremy Walsh

An anti-gay-marriage group that counts state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) among its supporters has sued the state of New York to overturn Gov. David Paterson's executive directive favoring gay marriage.

The Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund filed the lawsuit June 3 in Bronx Supreme Court on behalf of Maltese, state Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) and 14 other legislators and New York residents. The first hearing in the case was held last Thursday.

The suit asks the court to invalidate Paterson's May 14 directive ordering state agencies to recognize out-of-state gay marriages.

It cites the resulting state expenditures on services and family benefits as a violation of state finance laws.

“The governor should respect New York's marriage laws over the laws of foreign jurisdictions,” said Alliance Defense Fund attorney Brian Raum in a prepared statement. “Gov. Paterson is overstepping his authority and the democratic process by issuing a directive at odds with New York public policy on marriage.”

Maltese's office did not respond to requests for comment by press time Tuesday.

Though there is no Queens-based organization dedicated to promoting gay marriage, local gay activists did hold a gay marriage rally in 2006 that attracted a crowd of 2,000 people.

Leaders among the borough's gay and lesbian community condemned the suit.

“This is the same thing that happens with all this legislation,” said Jackson Heights Democratic District Leader Daniel Dromm. “When Mayor Ed Koch in the '70s tried to implement an executive order to prevent discrimination in employment and benefits, they tried to overturn it unsuccessfully.”

Elmhurst resident Sebastian Maguire, an outreach director for the group Marriage Equality New York, said the suit would likely not get very far.

“I think it's very interesting that the right-wing groups that have cried judicial activism in the past are now turning to the courts to get what they want,” he said. “Their main contention is that Gov. Paterson somehow circumvented the democratic process. However, that's simply not the case. I think the judge recognizes that as well.”

Maltese's own efforts to block gay marriage date back to 1996, when he first introduced a “defense of marriage” bill in the state Senate.

In 2007, Maltese sponsored a “Defense of Marriage” bill meant to keep gay marriage illegal. The bill did not leave the judiciary committee and was reintroduced in 2008.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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