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Religious exemption and New York's gay marriage law

Religious exemption and New York's gay marriage law

Those curious about what this exemption does and does not cover might be interested in this item, from a Baptist website:

Religious exemption language that was part of a successful “gay marriage” bill in New York addresses a handful of religious liberty concerns but ignores a large number of other religious conflicts, says an attorney familiar with the issue.

The religious exemption language was critical to getting a handful of Republican senators — four total — to support the bill, allowing it to pass, 33-29.

The issue of religious liberty has been at the forefront of conservative concerns about “gay marriage.” After it was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004, Catholic Charities chose to get out of adoptions instead of being forced to place children in same-sex homes. While the language might prevent that from happening in New York, Alliance Defense Fund attorney Austin R. Nimocks says, it would not protect a husband-and-wife photography team from state action if they declined to take pictures at a same-sex “wedding.” It also would do nothing to prevent the teaching of “gay marriage” in New York schools. Alliance Defense Fund is a legal organization that fights for religious liberty.

Following is a partial transcript of an interview with Nimocks:

BAPTIST PRESS: Give me an example of what the bill supposedly would cover in its religious exemptions.

AUSTIN R NIMOCKS: A church or religious organization that, for example, owns property, would not be required to have their property used or appropriated for purposes inconsistent with their theological beliefs or views about marriage.

BP: Would the exemption protect Catholic Charities and prevent the problem that they had in Massachusetts?

NIMOCKS: It’s hard to say because you don’t know how all this is going to be interpreted. But I would say that Catholic Charities would likely be covered [by the exemption] because of the religious nature of Catholic Charities. But if you have a private adoption agency that is not overtly religious but believes they want to adopt kids out only to moms and dads — they’re not covered.

BP: You’re saying that the term “religious” is up to a judge’s interpretation.

NIMOCKS: Absolutely. Where a conflict arises, it will be played out in court or some tribunal. This language does not cover everything it needs to cover and everybody that needs to be covered. In terms of what it purports to cover, it remains to be seen whether it will be interpreted in the way that many legislators who enacted it are promising it will be. There are significant holes in this religious liberty language.

Read the whole thing.

And you can read the exemption for yourself right here.

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42 responses to “Religious exemption and New York's gay marriage law”

  1. The ultimate goal of the homosexual movement is complete and total acceptance of their so called lifestyle inside and outside the Church. They will not stop or relent until either the Church surrenders and performs “gay” marriages or the Church is destroyed. There is no mid-way and if we think otherwise we are fooling ourselves.

  2. The concern here was very obviously to save the institutional church(es) from further lawsuits rather than to protect the consciences of individual Christians who may find that they (or their children) are now forced to cooperate in evil. Evidently the lawmakers felt that putting a protective wall around the collection baskets would satisfy the real concerns of religious opponents of gay marriage. Sadly, I suspect they were pretty much right.

  3. Up until now I’m not sure how to take same sex marriage. I am a devoted Catholic and I am fully aware that this contradicts the teachings of the Catholic Church. However, I couldn’t explain why some part of me is happy for the gay community.

  4. The new statute will be fitted into the larger body of New York law. New York law has allowed gay adoptions for years, and I have never heard of Roman Catholic adoption agencies being compelled to place children with gay adoptive parents.

  5. I think it was Lenin who talked about “useful fools”. Those who where not rabid communists but who through their foolishness cooperated thinking the reds would go only so far and not beyond.

    The Nazis in Germany rode to triumph because people thought they could be controlled and their measures would adhere to law.

    If we think the homosexual lobby will stop at this, well we are in the same shoes as Lenin’s useful fools and Hitler’s enablers. The homosexual lobby goal is total surrender of the Church and society and complete acceptance of “gay marriage”. They will not relent until homosexuals are given the Sacrament. Is the Church going to surrender or resist?

  6. Rosary, you must be hitting that rosary a little too lightly if some part of you was happy about legalized homosexual marriage in the Empire State. The Sodom and Gomorrah-ization of America continues apace.

  7. Whatever happened to that old sign “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”?
    Couldn’t businesses, etc. use a “two guys, two gals- no service” clause?

  8. There is a hypothetical situation about which I have been wondering: If a Roman Catholic “bi” (The “B” of LGBT) man who has been legally married, under New York State’s civil law to another man later falls in love with a woman and plans to marry her in a Catholic religious ceremony, would the priest or deacon who is going to preside over the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony need to see a certificate of divorce, proving that the prior (invalid but legal) marriage has been dissolved? If so, the Church will not be totally exempt from this new legislation.

  9. To Sal’s point: would a judge (Catholic or otherwise) who is morally opposed to same-sex marriage be penalized if he or she refused to preside over such a ceremony?

  10. @ Rudy, here is my fear: society as a whole will take crumbling morality only so far. At some point people will come to their senses and say enough is enough and what I fear is a violent revolution in which nearly all our freedoms are surpresed as a means of restoring some kind of moral order. I can’t envision what that revolution will look like, but I do not hold out hope for the future.

  11. Let me also add that I believe our lives of charity as Christians in both our words and actions will win the revolution.

  12. Regina you raised very insightful and thought provoking questions. Never thought of them but I hope someone has the answers.

  13. @Regina, I don’t know how NY law will play out, but in Massachusetts, Catholics who were Justices of the Peace were told they could not refuse to marry homosexual couples; those opposed were forced to resign. I imagine that the same religious test could easily be applied to any government official who has authority to solemnize a civil marriage.

  14. Joseph: I agree with you. The revolution though, started a long time ago and it has gone through both “cold” and “hot” phases. The revolution started with Martin Luther (who may have been an unwitting initiator) and moved to the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, The Bolshevik Revolution, two World Wars, “Liberalism” and its now moving into what I think are its final stages, including Political Correctness, the crumbling of the old family, the “Gay” Movement, worship of Earth in the “Green” Movement. The Revolution has in fact won, and our society is shaped by the new vision of the world; schools, universities, TV, Internet, government, even religions now toe the line. Even within the Church dissent and unorthodox doctrines are pushed.

    But you are right, it will be prayers, fidelity and life of charity (love for Christ) that will win, as He has promised. Unfortunately I fear for my children’s future and their souls.

  15. The religious exemptions are just a fraud–especially as regarding individual religious rights.

  16. I knew a Catholic friend once who was asked during an interview with a state attorney general’s office (her resume included some of the best catholic colleges) whether she would be able to prosecute people who interfered with a planned parenthood clinic. So yes, the un-Constitutional religious test is coming, and it is solely practicing Catholics who will be excluded from public office unless something dramatic changes.

  17. @Steve Cavanaugh: Where was the hue and cry about the discrimination suffered by those Justices of the Peace who were following either the teachings of their Church, the dictates of their conscience or both?! IMHO, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should grant those Justices of the Peace the right to be conscientious objectors. This would be similar to the draft exemptions that were granted to Quakers.

  18. Sounds as though our society is becoming something like that of the Roman Empire where Christianity was born. Christians were outlawed and discriminated against then, too. People had opportunities to be arrested and to die for their faith, Might it come to that here? In my youth I couldn’t have imagined being in such a situation. Today I’m beginning to think it would be possible.

  19. Actually Ruth it has already happened here in the U.S. not to speak of Canada and the European Union. Try to say overt Catholic prayer at a school graduation or put up a cross at your local park. Try to express your opposition to “gay marriage” at your work or a public venue.

    Here in Boston the “gay” flag was hoisted along the American flag at City Hall. Just try to foist a Christian or Catholic one and see what happens.

    It is here Ruth, not yet at the degree it was in Ancient Rome but it won’t be long.

  20. I think it is unless the hierarchy gets a lot more vocal, articulate, and charitably punitive where necessary. Right now it’s a little bit like the situation when Pablo Escobar had everyone afraid of him for years and years in Colombia, until finally people got organized and started adopting some of his own tactics to defeat him. Yes there I said it, I’m comparing this cultural fiasco, i.e., abortion on demand and homosexual marriage, to the drug wars. At least as bad and worse on a spiritual level.

  21. Amen #2!

    Legislators have our number now, as demonstrated in CA and NY: keep the institutional Church protected (for now), to hell with the individual faithful Catholic. Woe be to a Catholic photographer who decides not to take a photo of a “gay wedding” or a KofC Council declining to rent their hall to a lesbian “couple.” Their legal liability is immense. But good ole Father Paddy at the parish is safe from officiating these monstrosities and the bishops look good in front of the papal nuncio, so all is well.

    Poor sheep of the flock. Your shepherds’ plan against the wolves appears to be having you eaten first.

  22. In a piece titled “Catholic hierarchs lose marriage battle to Catholic laity,” a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter argues that it was primarily Catholics “honoring the Catholic social justice tradition” who won the battle for same-sex marriage in NY state:

    In drafting the religious exemptions, these Catholic solons were evidently crafty enough to distinguish between what merely leaves our bishops “sad” and what might instead make them hopping mad.

  23. The question I have posed to several friends is: What is next? Suppose 4 frat house buddies decide that they are more than college friends that and they really love each other, want to be “married” to each other — that they are soul mates. What sort of bigotry would keep them from being “married”? They love each other and want to spend the rest of their days together. Why does marriage have to be restricted to one person? Or, perhaps I have found that “man’s best friend” (my golden retriever) is the one I want to “marry”. Why must marriage be limited to humans. In the name of animal rights and my civil rights, shouldn’t we be permitted? On what grounds is that wrong? Shouldn’t the law evolve to permit this, too? After all, it’s my body and my dog’s body. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it this same line of logic that has our NYS “leaders” to redefining Holy Matrimony? I think so. And it is sick.

  24. Steve @ 13: When people become justices of the peace, they put their hand on a Bible and swear to uphold the laws of their state–all of the laws, without exception. They do not put their hand on a statute book and swear to uphold the Bible. If a justice cannot in good conscience do his or her job, then of course he/she must resign.

    You know, reading the comments above, I am reminded of the signs that used to be seen in front of shops and factories in the 1800’s:

    “No Catholics Need Apply”

    We don’t like that, do we? And if signs like that were to appear today, we’d run screaming to the courts for redress, and to hell with the sincerely held religious convictions of the Protestant business owners.

    Discrimination can be a two-edged sword. How quickly we forget this.

  25. Makarios, being Catholic is a benign characteristic. Loudly denouncing people as homophobes and radically redefining an institution at the base of society– that long predates the state– doesn’t compare at all. It is like comparing oranges and cyanide.

  26. Dear Fr. Michael,

    Being Catholic is not a characteristic (in the sense that it is not innate)–it is a choice. And it is a choice that presumably harms nobody.

    Being attracted to members of the same sex, whether innately or not, likewise harms nobody. All representations to the contrary are specious and without merit, so please don’t even bother trying.

    Loudly denouncing people, whether as homophobes on the one hand or as “radically disordered” on the other, is neither here nor there.

    The law cannot force anyone to approve of same-sex relationships, any more than it can force people to approve of homosexuality in general, of Muslims, of Catholics, or of African Americans. What the law can do is ensure that all people are regarded as equal before the law, and equally subject to protection from discrimination. If we want the state to protect us from unjust discrimination, then we must be prepared to accept that the same protection may, and in justice should, be afforded to others as well.

  27. Homosexuals have the same right as everyone else before the law. They can vote, they can have representation, the law gives them, as all other, same rights. But what they want is not equality before the law, what they want is special treatment so that their so called “lifestyle” is not only tolerated by civil society, but celebrated and put on a pedestal. They not only want that, but also they want to redefine marriage and they want, they demand, they must have their perverted outlook ram into people’s religious views.

  28. @Makarios (25). Please note that in my post (13) I simply stated the facts as they played out here in Massachusetts.

    And while it is true that an officer of the court such as a JP, or a governor, swear to uphold the law, what we now have is a situation where a religious test is being applied to ever wider swaths of the population. Are you an orthodox Catholic or and Orthodox Jew…sorry, you are unable to be a JP, a judge or a governor. I expect that the reasons for excluding the religious will only grow in number. But that is speculation.

    The Mass Supreme Court said the marriage laws of the Commonwealth were unconstitutional because they were discriminatory. The legislature was given 6 months to rewrite the laws. Neither Supreme Judicial Court nor Governor can constitutionally create law on their own, and the General Court declined to do so.

    And so, we are left with the fact that the General Court (the Legislature) did not pass any new laws. The old ones are void. The Governor issued orders that sex-neutral marriage license forms be used from the 6 month point on, but in fact, by our constitution, only the General Court could enact laws about marriage. The Governor’s (Romney) actions were unconstitutional.

    A determined lawyer could likely wreak havoc here by bringing a case to demonstrate that in fact not only are gay marriages not legal in Mass at this time but neither are heterosexual ones.

  29. Steve @ 29:

    Please do not trot out the same tired arguments about the courts “rewriting law.” The courts in the U.S. do indeed have the power to declare laws unconstitutional, and have done so since Marbury v. Madison. Look it up. A ‘determined’ lawyer who attempted what you suggest would be laughed out of court.

    As for a “religious test,” your assertions are simply out in left field. If a candidate for a job as assistant district attorney is an “orthodox” Catholic (and there’s some pre-emptive language use involved there), and if that person wouldn’t prosecute people who vandalize a Planned Parenthood clinic, then that person should not be hired; not because she’s Catholic, but because she effectively refuses, in advance, to do part of the job.

  30. Makarios:

    The legal status quo ante in NY was free was free from discrimination. A man and a woman walk into a county office and request to be married in accord with the laws of the State of New York. No government official would ask the sexual preference of either party, nor would a wedding license be denied to the couple if somehow a same-sex attraction be determined. So the question before NY and other jurisdictions isn’t a matter of protection against discrimination but a profound revision of the institution of marriage.

    I’ve never heard a Catholic yelling or writing that gays and lesbians are “radically disordered.” Perhaps you are thinking of the freak show known as the Westboro Baptist Church or some fundamentalist church in the backwoods? No doubt they would be of the same mindset calling the Catholic Church the Whore of Babylon. In any case, an insignificant minority with little sway in our society.

  31. Fr. Michael I am with you, but the only freak shows are the so called “gay pride” parades, where you can see every kind of deviance in full exposition of the most torpid morality.

  32. It wasn’t so long ago that sodomy was carried on most cities’ crime books; after all, that particular crime was named for the city that was famous for sins against God’s gift of procreation. To show his displeasure, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

    Today we have states that would like to make it a crime to prevent these people from performing what was once considered criminally unnatural sexual acts. At the very least, they wish respectability on a family marriage level. How have we come to this unbelievable point where our supposed Catholic representatives have helped to make this atrocity a reality with their votes? Obviously something has gone terribly wrong. I suspect that either these representatives’ votes have been bought, or the gay community has information on the representatives that could be considered damaging or even fatal to their careers and have threatened to release that information if the vote didn’t go in their favor.

    Back in the seventies, a thirties something city official had a sexual affair with his fourteen year old babysitter. Not long after that, the city he worked for instituted their very first gay pride day and gay pride parade. Now what do you suppose is the possibility that the young girl bragged about her affair with this sophisticated city official to a few of her closest friends and the gay community learned about it and threatened the city official if he didn’t give them something to keep quiet about it?

    In case you missed it, my point was that the gay community seems to be buying what they want in one way or another.

  33. It is baffling how many Catholic politicians favor the homosexual agenda. I think probably Foxan6 is onto something. Homosexuals constitute about 2% of the population and yet they have managed to reverse 4000 years of Western morality in less than 20. They are the darlings of the liberal western elite. There are several explanations to this, here is a link to one explored in First Things magazine:

  34. Fr. Michael,

    I have heard (and read) a lot of Catholics – including several bishops and items quoted or referenced in this blog – saying that homosexuals are “radically disordered” and in violation of nature. I am surprised that you have not as well. There have been some extremely virilent comments made regarding homosexuals – not exactly showing our Christian faith in its best light.

  35. 2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.

  36. 2357 Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  37. As for the vitriol, not as much as throwing condoms at the altar, desecrating the Eucharist or men parading as nuns in a state of semi-nudity in addition to their foul mouthed cursing of the Church and Catholics. That is vitriolic.

  38. It might be helpful to clarify, for those who are don’t quite get it:

    The church does not view same-sex attraction as inherently sinful, but rather “disordered,” something that is outside the norm (if we can agree that about 97% of attractions in the human species are heterosexual and therefore “the norm.”)

    It is the acts connected with that attraction that are sinful. Just as the acts between an unmarried man and woman are sinful.

    As the catechism puts it:

    2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

    2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

    A man or woman may not necessarily choose the person to whom he or she is attracted. But they can certainly choose whether or not to act on that attraction.

    Dcn. G.

  39. Always good to go to the Catechism. The “disorder” refers to the temptation to sin and the acts themselves. Guess what? There are lots of disorders: to steal, to lie, to envy, etc. If we held to our traditional language about concupiscence, perhaps our teaching wouldn’t be confused, as it often is, with clinical psychological disorders.

    Once again, who has heard a Catholic with a bullhorn telling gays and lesbians, “You are disordered.” It boggles the mind.

  40. “Just as the acts between an unmarried man and woman are sinful.” IMHO, this gets swept under the rug.

  41. We don’t agree with Jehovah Witnesses or Mormon’s but we respect their right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

    I think that equality is a very positive step for society, the church, and individual freedoms. Morality isn’t something that should be forced on people.

    Jesus stood by the side of tax collectors and prostitutes. WWJD? He would clearly support social justice

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