Same-sex marriage vote nears, church leaders speak out - Catholic Courier

Same-sex marriage vote nears, church leaders speak out

New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan and the New York State Catholic Conference spoke out June 14 against proposed legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in New York state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced the bill June 14 amid speculation that the New York State Senate will vote on the legislation before the session ends this week.

The governor introduced the Marriage Equality Act just one day after three formerly undecided Democratic senators and one local Republican — Sen. Jim Alesi, R-Perinton — confirmed they would support the bill if it reaches the Senate floor. Alesi previously had voted against same-sex marriage legislation when it came up for a vote in 2009, and now joins 29 Democratic senators who’ve pledged to support the legislation.

The proposed legislation would amend the state’s Domestic Relations Law to state that:

  • A marriage that is otherwise valid shall be valid regardless of whether the parties to the marriage are of the same or different sex.
  • All marriages, including same-sex marriages, shall receive the same government treatment, status, effect, right, benefit, privilege, protection and responsibility.
  • All relevant gender-specific language in the state’s laws shall be construed in a gender-neutral manner.
  • No application for a marriage license shall be denied on the ground that the parties are of the same or a different sex.

The proposed legislation affirms that no member of the clergy can be compelled to solemnize any marriage, and guarantees that religious institutions and benevolent organizations — such as the Knights of Columbus — remain free to choose who may use their facilities for marriage ceremonies and celebrations, consistent with their religious principles. It equalizes the legal institution of civil marriage while leaving the religious institution of marriage to its own separate and fully autonomous sphere, according to a June 14 press release about the bill.

"On the issue of marriage equality, our state has fallen behind," Cuomo said in a June 14 statement. "For too long, same-sex couples have been denied the freedom to marry, as well as hundreds of rights that other New Yorkers take for granted. Marriage equality is a matter of fairness and legal security for thousands of families in this state — not of religion or culture."

The religious-exemption language in the legislation is not adequate, according to New York State Catholic Conference Executive Director Richard Barnes, who on June 14 issued a statement opposing the bill.

"Our initial analysis is that it is not as comprehensive and adequate as has been passed and is being considered in other states," Barnes stated. "Also as a fundamental principal, we continue to oppose passage of this bill because it would redefine the institution of marriage."

All New York citizens should be concerned about the state government’s attempt to reinvent the definition of marriage, which has always been the cornerstone of civilization and culture, Archbishop Dolan wrote in his June 14 blog post. (Bishop Matthew H. Clark expressed his views on the subject in an "Along the Way" column in April 2004.) The government should not be redefining rights, relationships, values and natural law, he noted.

"Our country’s founding principles speak of rights given by God, not invented by government, and certain noble values — life, home, family, marriage, children, faith — that are protected, not re-defined, by a state presuming omnipotence," Archbishop Dolan wrote.

Freedom is not the license to do whatever we want, but rather the liberty to do what we ought to do, he continued. In opposing same-sex marriage, the church is upholding the right of a child to be raised in a family with a mother and a father. The church also affirms the basic human rights of gay men and women, yet does not believe marriage is simply a mechanism for delivering benefits, he wrote.

"It is the union of a man and a woman in a loving, permanent, life-giving union to procreate children. Please don’t vote to change that. If you do, you are claiming the power to change what is not into what is, simply because you say so. This is false, it is wrong, and it defies logic and common sense," Archbishop Dolan wrote.

The archbishop admitted in his blog that he approaches the issue of same-sex marriage as one of many who believe God, not Albany, settled the definition of marriage a long time ago.

"But I also come at this as an American citizen, who reads our formative principles as limiting government, not unleashing it to tamper with life’s most basic values," he wrote.

On June 13 the Catholic conference e-mailed action alerts to Catholics who live in certain Senate districts, urging them to support their senators who have defended traditional marriage in the past.

"The matter now rests with the Republican conference in the Senate," said Dennis Poust, communications director for the Catholic conference. "No one can claim to not know where the church stands on this issue. There is nothing further we can say that hasn’t already been said."

Tags: NY Catholics
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