ALBANY, N.Y. - Opposition surfaced yesterday against Gov. David Paterson's directive to state agencies to recognize gay marriages legally performed in other states and countries.

The Rev. Duane Motley of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms said the Democrat "slapped the people in the face by circumventing their representatives," while New York's Catholic bishops said "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.' "

Paterson issued a memo this month saying that gay New Yorkers who marry where it is legal will have the right to share family health-care plans, receive tax breaks by filing jointly, enjoy stronger adoption rights, and inherit property.

Paterson cited a February ruling in a New York Appellate Division court in which the judges determined that there is no legal impediment in New York to the recognition of a same-sex marriage.

While gay-rights advocates hailed the move, the feeling was not unanimous.

State Senate Republican Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, who opposes gay marriage, questioned the constitutionality of Paterson's action but said yesterday that he had not yet seen the memo.

Bruno said he was surprised when he read news reports about the memo and plans to speak to Paterson. Bruno also noted the state's highest court has found gay marriage isn't legal within the state. The high court has not taken up the issue of whether gay marriages performed legally out of state are valid in New York.