NEW YORK - (AP) - A Bronx judge has thrown out the first direct legal challenge to Gov. David Paterson's move to recognize out-of-state gay marriages.

In a ruling Tuesday, state Supreme Court Judge Lucy Billings said the policy is a "permissible, if not mandated, step toward the objective of equality" for gays. Her finding comes as thousands of gay New Yorkers are expected to take advantage of a new Massachusetts law letting them wed there.

Paterson's counsel told state agencies in May that a recent appellate court ruling required them to recognize gay marriages legally performed elsewhere.

An Arizona-based Christian legal group, the Alliance Defense Fund, filed a lawsuit saying the issue should be decided by the state Legislature, not the governor.

The alliance and Paterson's office had no immediate response to the ruling.