Catholic leaders in New York state are rallying members of the community in opposition to a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage.
On June 19, the Assembly voted 85-61 in favor of A.8590, which was proposed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer. The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan) would provide that no application for a marriage license would be denied on the grounds of the applicants’ genders, and that government treatment, legal status, and all rights, benefits, privileges, protections or responsibilities relating to marriage would be equal for all married couples regardless of gender.
Dennis Poust, communications director for the New York State Catholic Conference, noted that the state Senate did not take up the measure before the scheduled end of the legislative session on June 21, and that state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said his house would not vote on the bill this year.
In the meantime, Poust said the conference is urging all Catholics in New York to contact their Assembly members with a message — either of disappointment or of thanks — depending on how those members voted in reference to A.8590.
Assemblymen representing districts in the Diocese of Rochester voted as follows:
Yea — Susan V. John, D-131th; David R. Koon, District D-135th; Barbara S. Lifton, D-125th; and Joseph D. Morelle, D-132th.
Nay — James G. Bacalles, R-136th; Daniel J. Burling, R-147th; Joseph A. Errigo, R-130th; Gary D. Finch, R-123th; David F. Gantt, D-133th; Stephen M. Hawley, R-139th; Brian M. Kolb, R-129th; Robert C. Oaks, R-128th; Tom O’Mara, R-137th; and Bill Reilich, R-134th.
A “yea” vote indicates that the assembly member voted to allow same-sex marriage.
“As citizens, Catholics should always make their voices heard to their elected representatives. It is particularly important in the case of same-sex marriage because it is such a compelling moral issue for society and it is an issue in which legislators will listen to their constituents,” Poust said. “As Catholics, we are asked to speak the truth in charity. It is in that spirit that we should register our opinions with our legislators.”
“Homosexual men and women deserve respect and compassion, but marriage is an institution that mirrors nature and is designed as the union of physically and emotionally complementary partners to assure the stable rearing of children,” added Richard Barnes, executive director of the state Catholic conference.
When the issue last arose in New York — in response to then-Attorney General Spitzer’s 2004 analysis of whether New York law permitted the granting of marriage licenses to same-sex couples (he found out that it did not) — Bishop Matthew H. Clark issued a 1,000-word statement which was published as his “Along the Way” column in the Catholic Courier’s April 2004 monthly edition.
The bishop explained that same-sex marriage is not possible because marriage is a sacrament celebrated between a baptized man and a baptized woman; that the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman is based on sacred Scripture; and that the Roman Catholic Church cannot support any movement to offer ceremonial blessings or civil legalization of same-sex marriages.
Bishop Clark, who is currently on vacation, added that these views should not be taken as discriminating against homosexual people: “While we as Church uphold the basic human rights of homosexual people to exist peacefully, free from persecution in our society, we also must hold on to what we believe are basic moral truths,” he wrote.