ALBANY, N.Y. — The state of New York was on the brink of legalizing same-sex “marriage” this week as lawmakers in Albany wrangled over language to grant exemptions to religious organizations opposed to blessing same-sex unions.
Known as the Marriage Equality Act, the bill reportedly needed one more vote in the Republican-controlled state Senate to reach the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a supporter of same-sex “marriage” who has been lobbying lawmakers for several weeks.
The state’s Democrat-controlled General Assembly passed the same-sex “marriage” bill on June 15. Following days of closed-door negotiations between the governor and Senate leadership, there’s been no announcement that the bill would be brought to a vote before the full 62-member Senate.
But a vote was expected to be scheduled by the end of the legislative session today. There were reportedly 31 declared votes in favor of same-sex “marriage” — 29 of 30 Democrats and two of 32 Republicans.
Observers on both sides of the debate believed the bill would pass the full chamber if enough Republican state senators felt they had sufficient political cover to vote for the legislation by obtaining strong exemption language for churches, synagogues, mosques and their affiliated organizations.
Michael Long, the chairman of the New York Conservative Party, said today that he did not know which way lawmakers would decide, but said, “We’re the underdog, that’s for sure.”
“We are doing everything we can to stop the passage of this bill with memos, phone calls alerting our membership,” he said.
“When you have the governor of the state of New York spearheading the charge, it empowers the gay lobbyists, strengthens them, and gives them momentum.”
Long said he would like to know what some senators who were previously opposed to same-sex marriage received in exchange from the governor for their support. “At least two senators walked into the governor’s office against it, and they left the office in favor. You can draw your own conclusions.”
Not Giving Up
However, opponents of the Marriage Equality Act said they were not giving up their lobbying efforts to kill the bill.
“We’re going to be opposing this to the very end,” said Dennis Poust, spokesman for the New York Catholic Conference, the public-policy arm of the Catholic bishops in New York.
Poust said the Catholic bishops sought to “reframe the debate,” arguing that legalizing same-sex “marriage” would devalue marriage in New York and possibly lead to the overturning of laws in other states that define marriage as between one man and one woman.
“We’re thankful for whatever (religious) protections we’re given, but we still say redefining marriage is a terrible idea,” Poust said. He said Albany lawmakers were rushing the bill without any public hearings or input.
“This is a radical redefinition of the American family, and they’re doing it under the cover of darkness. Frankly, we think it stinks,” Poust said.
The Rev. Duane Motley, founder and senior lobbyist of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, said he and other evangelical Christians have been “working around the clock for weeks” in Albany, trying to persuade lawmakers not to support the Marriage Equality Act. He said “former homosexuals” and residents from Massachusetts, which legalized same-sex “marriage” in 2004 after a court ruling, have shared their experiences in an attempt to dissuade anyone from supporting the bill.
“The fundamental premise of this bill is against Scripture, and it’s wrong. It’s not acceptable — plain and simple,” Rev. Motley said.
Motley said that face-to-face meetings with legislators were the most effective path for activists opposing a redefinition of marriage. “That is what we’ve been doing for several weeks now. But I wish the Catholics would step up. We need the bishops up here, before more Catholic politicians cave in on this.”
Still, Poust said the bishops have been proactive about protecting traditional marriage: Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York called an Albany talk-radio station this month to make his case that same-sex “marriage” would be ominous for society. During the recent spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Seattle, Archbishop Dolan dispatched Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn to meet with Albany lawmakers.
Archbishop Dolan also wrote a blog on the issue, saying that the Church’s beliefs “should not be viewed as discrimination against homosexual people.”
“This is not about denying rights. It’s about upholding a truth about the human condition. Marriage is not simply a mechanism for delivering benefits,” said Archbishop Dolan, who compared efforts to redefine marriage to the manner in which repressive governments in China and North Korea operate.
“In those countries, government presumes daily to redefine rights, relationships, values and natural law,” Archbishop Dolan said.
William Donohue, president of the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, applauded the archbishop’s “bold leadership.”
“If we lose on this, it won’t be because Archbishop Dolan wasn’t up to the fight,” said Donohue, who believed the religious-exemption language is the key to what happens in the New York state Senate.
“If the pro-marriage side gets their way, with the religious protections built into the law, then I think it will probably be passed. But our side holds the cards to some extent. We have to get what we want in terms of religious insulation from the state. It would be a partial victory for us, but not sufficient,” added Donohue, during an interview.
Kevin Nix, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a leading homosexual-rights organization that spearheaded the same-sex “marriage” drive, expressed his optimism that “things were moving in the right direction” in Albany.
“One day soon, committed loving gay and lesbian couples will be able to marry in the state of New York,” said Nix, who referenced several polls indicating that more than 50% of New Yorkers and Americans, including Catholics, support “marriage equality.”
Nix credited Cuomo for demonstrating a “steadfast commitment to marriage equality” and said the governor had “shown himself to be a leader on getting this done.”
For Nix, the most effective way to change voters’ opinions is by “personalizing the issue: It’s about being able to marry the person you love. This affects families, gay families and their broader families. We’ve had grandfathers 80 years old supporting their gay grandchildren,” said Nix, who downplayed the concerns over religious liberties.
“Religious freedom is important to everyone. In this bill, we’re talking about going down to City Hall and getting a marriage license,” Nix said. “With churches, synagogues and mosques, nothing changes. They don’t have to marry a gay couple. They can continue to make those decisions.”
The Catholic Conference of New York State argues otherwise.
“We believe redefining marriage in New York will further devalue marriage, from what we’ve seen in the last four decades,” Poust said. He listed increased rates of divorce, adultery and cohabitation as worrisome trends that have damaged the institution.
“Marriage is in trouble. This (bill) will take that to new extremes by severing any link between marriage and procreation. It’s not good for kids, families or society,” said Poust, who believes the Catholic Church and other religious groups could face years of litigation if the bills passes.
“We’re convinced this could lead to marriage laws being challenged in other states,” Poust said.
“The same-sex ‘marriage’ lobby has outspent us and been very aggressive to portray anyone who opposes them as a bigot. It’s intimidation, and it’s been working. It’s … very disheartening.”
Poust said the legislative process, whereby the bill has gone through the chambers without public hearings, was “almost like a fix.”
Donohue predicts an amendment to the U.S. Constitution will ultimately decide the issue: “I believe that, eventually, it will be affirmed in the Constitution that marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Register correspondent Brian Fraga writes from New Bedford, Massachusetts.