The New York State Catholic Conference, which is lobbying to stop the state Senate from voting on the marriage equality bill, argues that support for the bill as currently worded would constitute "a vote against religious liberty and against the very ministries and services that New Yorkers cannot do without."
In a note posted to Facebook Thursday morning, the conference, which is the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in the state, stated what it believes is the "real agenda" behind the legislation as currently worded. Gov. Andrew Cuomo submitted the Marriage Equality Act Tuesday with language for religious exemptions, specifically, to provide, parallel to the state's existing human rights law, that religious institutions, as private entities, would not be required to solemnize same-sex weddings or to rent facilities such as catering halls in opposition to their beliefs.
Critics, including the Catholic Church and some Jewish leaders, argue that the religious protections are inadequate. They want to be assured against challenges to their tax-exempt status and against the denial of state funding for services like adoption and foster care should they not recognize same-sex unions, as Catholic Charities adoption agencies in Illinois and Washington, D.C., have chosen to do.
"Do they really want to close adoption and foster care agencies and other religious ministries?" asks the New York State Catholic Conference. "Are they seeking to label faith-based institutions as unlawful discriminators? Will they go after the tax-exempt status of these 'discriminating' institutions? Can the Church trust assurances from the same lawmakers who forced Catholic schools and hospitals to pay for contraception insurance or who are trying to make Catholic hospitals allow abortions? Who's kidding whom?"
Many of the religious exemptions have been articulated by Sen. Greg Ball, an undecided Republican who has said he cannot vote for the bill as the language currently stands. Cuomo has indicated no inclination to negotiate the language, which New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg described as adequate after his meeting with Senate Republicans in Albany Tuesday.
However, even with the addition of more religious exemptions, it it difficult to imagine any marriage equality bill that the Catholic Church would not lobby to defeat. A spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference was not immediately available for comment.
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