On the Church and Society
September 28, 2006
The state comptroller in New York is the political version of a bookkeeper. The comptroller's office audits government, tallies up the budget, and manages the state and local retirement system. But just in case you thought this might be rather dull, think again.
New York's state comptroller, Democrat Alan Hevesi, is mixed up in the debate over so-called "gay marriage."
In October 2004, Hevesi's office replied to an inquiry from a state employee on the legal and financial implications of marrying his same-sex partner in Canada. The comptroller's office declared that it would recognize, for purposes of the state retirement system, such a marriage based on the principle of comity.
In early September of this year, the Alliance Defense Fund challenged this decision on behalf of New York taxpayers in a lawsuit. ADF also filed a lawsuit against New York's Westchester County executive, who ordered the county to extend benefits meant for married couples to gay couples married out of state.
In a press release, ADF Senior Legal Counsel Brian Raum said: "These officials are clearly defying the law since New York courts have consistently defined marriage in the state as one man and one woman. By granting benefits to unrecognized unions, they are allowing state coffers to be raided at the expense of New York taxpayers."
Hevesi responded in a statement: "We plan a vigorous defense because the law is clear: In New York State, we recognize marriages that have been conducted in Canada in accordance with Canadian laws and that now includes same-sex marriages. I have for many years believed that lesbians and gay men should have the right to marry in New York. But our October 2004 decision was a strictly legal determination based upon statutes and case law, not on my personal opinion."
But that's not really the case. In fact, in the comptroller's own October 2004 response letter, the first line from the first case cited clearly stated: "The doctrine of comity is not a rule of law but one of practice, convenience and expediency."
The ADF also correctly points out in its complaint that the New York State Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, affirmed on July 6, 2006, "New York State's definition of marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman," and on July 11, a state supreme court judge "ruled that a marriage performed in Canada did not constitute a marriage defined by the New York Court of Appeals and therefore a same sex couple purportedly 'married' in Canada were not entitled to State insurance benefits under New York Civil Service Law."
So, in reality, the bookkeeper is pushing his personal opinion, not the law.
By the way, as for the two candidates for governor in New York, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the Democrat, favors gay marriage and has promised to sign legislation establishing gay marriage.
Meanwhile, the Republican, John Faso, was quoted in July by Bloomberg News declaring, "Same-sex marriage runs contrary to the religious traditions of millions of New Yorkers of all faiths," and he promised "to ensure that marriage remains a relationship between a man and a woman."
Raymond J. Keating, also a columnist with Newsday, is the editor and publisher of the "On the Church & Society Report."
This column is from the latest issue of the "On the Church & Society Report," which also includes articles on torture and just war, immigration, Mel Gibson, abortion and the "marriage gap." To receive a free four-issue trial of the "On the Church & Society Report," send an e-mail request to ChurchandSociety@aol.com.