Same-Sex Marriage Bill Hinges on Religion Protections, Senate Says

Friday, June 17, 2011

Senate Republicans say protecting religious groups that won't perform same-sex weddings or offer services to same-sex couples is a significant factor in their refusal to bring the the bill to a vote.

Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos, who emerged from a three-hour conference with Republicans Friday, did not say when negotiations in Albany might end or when the conference could vote to send the bill to a vote or kill it.

Friday was the third day of closed-door conferencing on the topic, which has steadily built momentum this week ahead of the end of the legislative session on June 20. Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited Albany to make a pitch for same-sex marriage on Thursday.

Skelos said the Republicans are still debating whether the current version of the bill provides enough exemptions for people with religious beliefs against same-sex marriage. This was also a concern for Reverend Norman Macklin of the Empire Baptist Missionary Convention, who said even though the current bill only covers civil marriages, there are state officials who may be personally opposed to performing civil ceremonies for gay couples. 

"Town clerks, or justices of the peace who marry people, or for instance, captains on ships, and they have a conscience against marrying a gay couple – they have to be covered individually," Macklin said.

Reverend Jason McGuire of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical organization lobbying against the bill, said he's also concerned about private individual's who oppose gay marriage. "If you’re a cake baker or you have a catering house or something like that, and your business is built on weddings, and now you’re going to have to allow those businesses, those facilities to be used for these same-sex ceremonies – that’s a concern to people that have strongly held objection to same-sex marriage," McGuire said.

The proposed law states that no clergy can be forced to solemnize a gay marriage, and that no benevolent organization or “religious corporation” can be compelled to provide accommodations or facilities for same-sex marriage ceremonies.

The legislation needs 32 Senate votes to pass.

With reporting by Ailsa Chang and the Associated Press


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Comments [3]

Peg from Southern Tier NY

Same sex couples should be given the right to a State authorized Civil Marriage sanctioned by a State Official. Religious beliefs and customs should have nothing to do with extending the same legal rights to all New Yorkers - and all US citizens.

Our constitution guarantees Freedom "OF" Religion - which sometimes demands Freedom "From" Religion.

Jun. 17 2011 07:49 PM
JuliusG from Los Angeles (former New Yorker)

This is conceptually no different than a local official deciding he/she can marry two people of two different races because it offends their personal belief of racism (remember in S. Africa, Apartheid had a theological component too). Of course, in America, any one is free to hold reprehensible beliefs, but if they don't have a legal right to discriminate. Thus to build in the legal right to discriminate against a gay couple doing a civil ceremony is, well, un-American, at least un-American as the ideals that are inherently embodied within the Constitution about equal protection under the law for all citizens.

Jun. 17 2011 07:19 PM
Joe from NYC

If the state allows local officials to decide whether or not they perform gay marriages, this will be a failure for gay rights. A basic right to marry isn't up for interpretation by a local officials personal beliefs. If I was a city clerk and I thought interacial marriage was immoral, I'd have no right to refuse the applicants. How would this be any different? Stand tough Gov Cuomo, stand tough!

Jun. 17 2011 06:30 PM

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