New York 'gay marriage' bill faces decision time

Baptist Press
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Posted: Jun 21, 2011 5:52 PM
New York 'gay marriage' bill faces decision time
ALBANY, N.Y. (BP)--With the legislative session in overtime and the votes of a handful of Republican state senators up for grabs, the fate of a "gay marriage" bill that would make New York the largest and most influential state to redefine marriage remained uncertain Tuesday.

The dynamics of the issue were changing every few hours, and it was possible the body could pass the bill Wednesday or even adjourn without voting on it.

It has put the GOP-led Senate in a dilemma. Although nearly every member of the 32-member caucus opposes it, the bill is one vote shy of passage, and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- popular in the state -- is exerting considerable pressure on the body. The Democratic-controlled Assembly already passed the bill.

Republicans control the chamber, 32-30. Two Republicans and 29 Democrats support the bill, which needs 32 votes to pass. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos left a meeting with Cuomo Tuesday saying the men had worked out agreements on unrelated issues -- rent regulations and local property taxes, among them -- but had not come to an agreement on "gay marriage," the Albany Times-Union reported. Skelos has said some members of his caucus want the bill to have more religious freedom protections. The GOP caucus was scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. Eastern.

Republicans took control of the chamber in 2010, but opponents of the bill warn the GOP will lose control in 2012 if it allows a vote on the bill and it passes. GOP state Sen. Greg Ball -- who is undecided -- said calls and letters from his district are about 60 percent opposed to the bill, Politico.com reported.

The National Organization for Marriage has pledged to spend $1 million in 2012 to defeat any GOP senator who supports the bill.

"It's a really bad idea for the Republican majority in the Senate to be doing Mayor Bloomberg and Andrew Cuomo's bidding on this," National Organization for Marriage founder Maggie Gallagher said in a TV interview Monday. "I think it's going to be a political disaster for the Republican Party in New York."

If it passes, Gallagher said, "Republicans will be responsible because they control the chamber."

Bill opponents said no amount of religious freedom protections would be sufficient to gain their support. For instance, they said that whatever amendments are added to the bill, nothing would prevent "gay marriage" from being discussed as normal in elementary schools, as it has in some other states where it is legal.

The religious liberty concerns are real. When "gay marriage" was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004, Catholic Charities got out of the adoption business instead of being forced to place children in same-sex homes. Similarly, after civil unions were legalized in Illinois this year, Catholic Charities in Rockford, Ill., got out of the adoption business for the same reason.

Conservatives were heartened when former New York Giants wide receiver David Tyree -- a hero of the Giants' 2008 Super Bowl victory -- publicly opposed the bill. His stance was unique because several athletes in recent weeks had announced their support for "gay marriage."

"I want to tell the New York senators, this is not about right and left. This is about right and wrong," Tyree said at a press conference. "Marriage is an honorable estate not created by government but founded in nature and in God's nature. Some things really are written on the human heart. Children long to have the love and care of their mother and father in the same home. Marriage is the unique relationship that makes this all possible."

The National Organization for Marriage sent out an "Emergency Alert" email Monday urging New York citizens to contact five Republicans -- Ball, Stephen Saland, Andrew Lanza, Mark Grisanti, Greg Ball and John Flanagan -- and two Democrats: Joseph Addabbo and Shirley Huntley. (Contact information is available at NationforMarriage.org.)

Polls show the state is divided. A NY1/YNN-Marist Poll of 941 adults April 25-29 showed that by a 53-46 percent New Yorkers believe marriage should "only be between a man and a woman." At the same time, the same poll showed 50 percent supporting "gay marriage," 25 percent backing civil unions and 25 percent saying there should be no legal recognition.

"If gay marriage advocates ... really believe the people of New York have changed their minds , then they should have no problem trusting the people of New York with a referendum," Gallagher said.

Meanwhile, the National Organization for Marriage released Tuesday a poll it commissioned showing that 57 percent of registered voters agree that "marriage should only be between a man and a woman." The poll of 302 registered voters was conducted June 18-19

New York's population, 19 million, is more than the combined populations of the five states that have legalized "gay marriage."

"If New York falls, that means it will be much easier for other states to fall in the future," Jason J. McGuire, president of the New Yorker's Family Research Foundation, told Baptist Press in May.

Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.

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