Daily Israel Report
Show More

OpEds


New York Says ‘I Do’ to Same Sex ‘Marriage’

Pending court challenges, homosexuals will be able to marry each other in New York from July. Agudath Israel issues scathing condemnation.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 6/26/2011, 10:27 AM / Last Update: 6/26/2011, 10:48 AM

New York became the sixth and largest state in the United States Friday to legalize same-sex “marriage.” The marriage of homosexuals was legalized by the New York State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

While the New York State Assembly has passed same-sex marriage legislation in 2007, 2009, and 2011, the New York Senate rejected the bill. Negotiations between Republican members of the Senate and Governor Cuomo ensued, and  a same-sex marriage bill known as the Marriage Equality Act passed the State Senate by a vote of 33-29 on Friday.
 
Counter-protesters at Jerusalem 'gay pride' parade / (Israel news photo: Flash 90)
 
Four Republicans supported the bill in the 33-29 vote and enabled it to pass, and Cuomo signed the measure the same night.
 
“We made a powerful statement,” Cuomo said.  “This state is at its finest when it is a beacon of social justice.”
 
Same-sex "marriages" can theoretically begin in New York by July 24. However, legal challenges are expected to postpone this.
 
New York becomes the sixth state where same-gender couples can “wed,” and the third state, after Vermont and New Hampshire, to legalize marriage through legislation without being forced to do so by a court.
 
Orthodox Jewish groups had fought the law, laying out for members of the New York State Assembly and Senate the moral case against redefining marriage; they forwarded a statement signed by Agudath Israel, Central Rabbinical Congress of the U.S.A. and Canada, National Council of Young Israel, Rabbinical Alliance of America, Rabbinical Council of America, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America expressing the unanimous conviction of Orthodoxy in support of traditional marriage; and circulated a comprehensive analysis, by six law academics, of how a redefinition of marriage without adequate safeguards, would conflict with religious liberties. 
 
The leading elected opponent to the measure, Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz, said in the Senate debate that “G-d, not Albany, settled the issue of marriage a long time ago.” Diaz, a Bronx minister, was not allowed to make a full-length speech. “I’m sorry you are trying to take away my right to speak,” he protested. “Why are you ashamed of what I have to say?”
 
The decision was denounced in an official statement by Agudath Israel of America as a “capitulation to a lamentable contemporary Zeitgeist.”
 
The Catholic Bishops of New York said the law alters “radically and forever humanity’s historic understanding of marriage.”
 
The bill came for a vote after an agreement was reached on more protection for religious groups that oppose same-sex marriage. These groups still fear discrimination lawsuits under the new law, because of the lacunae in the agreement.
 
“State legislators should not decide society-shaping issues,” said the Rev. Jason McGuire of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. He said his organization would work to defeat lawmakers who voted for the measure.

Agudath Israel’s executive vice-president, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, warned that the legislation not only decrees “an ‘Orwellian’ redefinition of marriage” in the Empire State but endangers the religious rights of Orthodox Jews and other traditionalists.

Although the legislation includes certain limited protections for religious organizations and educational institutions, the Agudath Israel leader said that “unfortunately, in the realm of the practical, granting religious organizations permission to act in accordance with the tenets of their faiths – who would have ever thought that such ‘concession’ would ever be necessary in a free country? – is insufficient to protect New Yorkers’ religious rights. 

“For one thing, while the law permits religious groups to not recognize same-sex marriages with regard to their employment policies and employees’ benefits, it does nothing to protect such groups from being penalized for their position, for instance being denied government funding for their social service projects.

This is especially surprising, considering that the law does extend such protections with respect to a religious organization’s refusal to make its facilities or services available for a same-sex marriage ceremony.  Why wasn’t the same protection against penalty also made available with respect to a religious organization’s employment policies?

“What is more, the law offers no protection whatsoever to religious individuals.  If a wedding-hall owner or baker considers a same-sex ceremony to violate his or her sincere religious convictions and opts to not provide services to a same-sex couple, that will, outrageously, constitute a violation of state law.”  

Asks Rabbi Zwiebel: “Since when are individuals less entitled to religious liberty protection than organizations and institutions?”

Religious rights ramifications aside, Rabbi Zwiebel averred that “the passage of this law tragically illustrates how flimsy the notion of ‘morality’ is in a secular society.

“What was once universally acknowledged as a deviant lifestyle is now granted the name marriage – just as what was once considered murder is today simply a woman’s constitutionally protected ‘right’ to ‘reproductive freedom.’  When moral standards are disconnected from the eternal truths of Sinai, they have no permanence or value. 

 "Let us use this shocking development to remind at least ourselves, as believing Jews, that right and wrong are determined not by partisan politicians but by humankind’s Creator.”