Posts Tagged As: New York

The unique voter options in Erie

Timothy Kincaid

February 27th, 2012

It’s always a good thing when a Republican politician is supportive on gay issues. It allows voters who support equality more options and brings issues that really are important higher prominence.

And so when four New York Republican Senators voted for marriage equality, it was of benefit not only to the gay community, but to their constituents. Unburdened by an issue that, absent prejudice and theocratic ideology, would not be debated, voters are free to address fiscal policy and matters that impact economic recovery.

Of course, the National Organization for Marriage will seek to make marriage equality an issue in hopes of “punishing” those Republicans for daring to stray from the fold and to put their principles ahead of their party loyalty (though I suspect that they were doing precisely what the party leadership wanted). But for the most part, this is not an issue on which voters are likely to respond; Republicans who may not feel comfortable with gay marriage are not inclined to switch their vote to a Democrat who not only favors equality but differs with them on other issues as well. Voters in these districts will not have to consider their position on the matter in their vote.

Except for one.

As it turns out, the district represented by Sen. Mark Grisanti is one in which pro-equality and anti-equality voters may have to take their position on marriage into consideration and determine the importance they place on social issues. In Erie, there is one candidate whose approach to social issues will be to use his “conscience” to dictate the behavior of others. And New York’s Conservative Party (a small but influential ‘third party’) has given him their endorsement.

The party instead endorsed Charles M. Swanick, a former member of the Erie County Legislature who once changed his affiliation to Republican before returning to the Democrats. Mr. Lorigo said Mr. Swanick had told the county’s Conservatives that he was against same-sex marriage and abortion and in favor of fiscally conservative policies.

“Swanick is not a fall-in-line Democrat,” Mr. Lorigo said. “Swanick will vote his conscience. He’s made a commitment to us that on our issues, on our values, he will vote his conscience.”

Swanick is not yet the Democratic Party’s candidate and it would be a rather peculiar move to coalesce around a social conservative. But Democratic leaders are desperate to win this seat and they are currently shopping for the best candidate with the Conservative Party’s power a consideration.

Should they select Swanick, gay voters and progressives who value individual freedom could have a strong reason to not only vote for the Republican but against the Democrat.

And, unlike some situations, this time a vote which supports a pro-gay Republican does not necessarily end in the support of Republican leaders who will work to defeat equality. In New York, the leadership could have blocked the marriage vote or used power and threat to bring these four representatives in line. Instead, Republicans met in private, came out of caucus, brought the bill to the floor and while the majority voted against the bill, enough voted in favor to secure passage. (I have theories about very bright politicians seeing the winds of change and how a party that effectively blocked equality in New York would be perceived.) Republican leadership is supporting the four in their reelection efforts.

So, depending on how this plays out, this may be a unique situation in which I can, without any hesitation, encourage voters to vote Republican in 2012.

Gay Senior Center To Open in New York City

Jim Burroway

October 24th, 2011

Several studies have shown that LGBT seniors typically look to their final years with tremendous dread. Not only do they have to contend with declining health and loss of independence, but those who require nursing home care and special services find that, after perhaps decades of being out and proud LGBT people, they feel they have to go back into the closet on entering a long term care facility. Last week, the city of New York announced the opening of eight special senior centers catering to specific needs of seniors, including one dedicated to the needs of LGBT seniors. The new center, to open in Chelsea and serve all five boroughs, is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

Update: Silly New Yorkers, as commenter Ron points out, “The Golden Rainbow Center in Palm Springs has been around for years.” First in the nation, first in New York. What’s the difference, right?

Jamey’s Bullies Celebrate His Death

Jim Burroway

September 28th, 2011

The parents of Jamey Rodemeyer, the Buffalo-area teen who killed himself following constant bullying, told NBC’s Today that the bullying is still going on even after his death. This time, they’re being directed toward Jamey’s sister:

The parents of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, who was found dead at their home on Sept. 18, indicated in an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Ann Curry on Tuesday that their daughter endured further taunts at a school function immediately after Jamey’s wake. At a homecoming dance she attended shortly after her brother’s death, a potentially poignant moment turned ugly after a song by Lady Gaga, Jamey’s favorite artist, who recently dedicated a song at a concert in his memory.

“She was having a great time, and all of a sudden a Lady Gaga song came on, and they all started chanting for Jamey, all of his friends,” Jamey’s mother, Tracy, told Curry. “Then the bullies that put him into this situation started chanting, ‘You’re better off dead!’ and ‘We’re glad you’re dead!’ and things like that.

“My daughter came home all upset. It was supposed to be a time for her to grieve and have fun with her friends, and it turned into bullying even after he’s gone.”

“I can’t grasp it in my mind,” said Tim Rodemeyer, Jamey’s father. ” I don’t know why anyone would do that. They have no heart, that’s basically what it comes down to.”

Jamey’s parents said that he often spoke openly about the bullying at Heim Middle School, but he became more withdrawn at the start of his freshman year in high school.  His parents discovered an online post after his death, reading, “I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. What do I have to do so that people will listen to me?”

Amherst police are investigating whether Jeremy was a victim of harassment or hate crimes before his suicide.

Buffalo Teen Latest Suicide Following Anti-Gay Bullying

Jim Burroway

September 21st, 2011

Fourteen-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer posted an “It Gets Better” video last May describing his struggles with the constant bullying he experienced at school. He expressed confidence at that time that his family and friends could carry him through the difficulties. But when he started  a new school year as a high school freshman, the bullying got worse. It turns out that that support wasn’t enough:

Soon after coming home from a family camping trip, Jamey was found dead Sunday. His parents say he was always under pressure because of struggles with his sexuality.

Jamey’s mother Tracy Rodemeyer said, “So he hung around with the girls a lot, so then the teasing started happening like ‘Oh you’re such a girl or you’re gay or whatever and that bothered him for many years.”

Now, they want to carry in his message in hopes of preventing another tragedy like this one.

Jamey’s father Tim Rodemeyer said, “To the kids who are bullying they have to realize that words are very powerful and what you think is just fun and games isn’t to some people, and you are destroying a lot of lives.”

NY Clerk May Be Sued for Imposing Religious Test for Marriage Licenses

Jim Burroway

September 16th, 2011

As Rob Tisinai argued, that should be the headline over every article describing the decision of Rose Marie Belforti, the town clerk in Ledyard, New York, to impose her personal religious test on every person who wants to get married in her town. Last month, she sent a letter to the town board announcing her decision not to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. On August 30, a lesbian couple applied for a license, but were turned away because a deputy who had been assigned the task of doing Belfori’s job for her wasn’t available.

People for the American Way sent a letter to Belforti and town supervisor Mark Jordan demanding that the board direct Belforti to do her job or resign. If they refuse to do that, the town and clerk could face a lawsuit compelling the town and clerk follow New York law:

“Elected officials don’t get to pick and choose what laws they follow,” said PFAW spokesman Drew Courtney. “A county clerk that doesn’t like hunting doesn’t get to not issue hunting licenses. People for the American Way will be the first ones to defend her freedom of conscience, but she signed up to do a job. If she doesn’t want to do that job, she should resign.”

Belforti is an elected official, and it appears the board does not has the authority to force her to resign. Clerks in two other New York counties have already stepped down.

The militant homosexual savage attack on the religious freedom of little old lady affidavit signers

Timothy Kincaid

August 12th, 2011

Anti-gay activists have a sense of entitlement that seems to know no bounds. They are entitled, they believe, to live their life without even acknowledging the existence of gay people. And furthermore, they are entitled to be free of the offense of knowing that you exist even when they have to hunt you down (like The Peter sneaking into a Leatherman event) in order to be offended.

When marriage equality was proposed in New York, victims abounded.

First there were the children, oh the children, same-sex marriage would harm the children. But after years of marriage in other states, they haven’t been able to identify any children who were in any way harmed.

So on they went to Society and the sacred institute of the marriage registry. But the harm to Society is intangible and it’s hard to pity a computer file, so it was religious freedom that they built their claim. The poor preachers and priests who would be forced to sanctify sin.

But most gay people (and all elected officials) are sympathetic to the indignity of a minister being forced to go against her beliefs, so exceptions were made for religious marriage. Even church halls are exempt.

The anti-gay ran individual business owners up the flagpole, but that one didn’t resonate. In this economy, there were probably more business owners secretly thinking “I hope my pastor doesn’t find out that I ran an ad in the gay newspaper” than were wanting to alienate any potential customers. And they’ve learned that when someone tells a news reporter, “I don’t want to sell to that kind of person” that it’s not a winning situation.

But the anti-gays didn’t have anything other options, so they stuck with their “religious freedom” guns. Surely there were victims if they looked hard enough. If gay people marry then someone will… well, be less religiously free in some way and we’ll get back to you on the details.

Laura Fotusky

Then they found their victims, the town clerks who are forced to put their signature – their very own personal signature – on homosexual “marriage” licenses. And a clerk promptly came forward to sacrifice her job, to live by her values rather than cooperate with sin. Laura L. Fotusky, the Town Clerk of Barker, resigned:

“I believe that there is a higher law than the law of the land. It is the law of God in the Bible. In Acts 5:29, it states, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.'”

“I would be compromising my moral conscience if I participated in the licensing procedure. Therefore, I will be resigning as of July 21. I wanted you to know my position as I understand the marriage law goes into effect on July 24.”

Now, I am one who completely supports Ms. Fotusky’s decision to obey God rather than man. Provided, of course, that God is signing her paycheck. Otherwise, taxpayers are taxpayers.

Actually, I do pity poor Laura. It’s not likely that she would have given it a second thought, if the anti-gay activists hadn’t told her what her moral conscience has to say. After all, it didn’t seem to be troubled by divorced people, mixed faith couples, those who were clearly incompatible, or those who were not financial prepared for marriage. And unless her Bishop has hired her as church secretary, he really owe her an apology.

But much as I sympathize for poor Laura’s plight, I may be alone in that. Her story got lost in the celebrations. With couples beaming through their tears, mayors toasting champagne, churches hanging out banners, and people dancing in the streets, Laura’s tale of woe got lost. And martyr’s aren’t much use if no hears about them.

So another approach had to be crafted. What they need is a martyr whose story can drag on a while, someone who gets enough attention that their lost cause has a name attached.

So the Alliance Defense Fund decided that there was an extra-special exemption in state law that allows government employees to not do anything they don’t want to do, provided that they could put it in religious terms. By their reasoning, if a bureaucrat felt that they couldn’t “participate in the licensing procedure” unless the spouses-to-be passed their personal religious test, then the city was obligated to make special accommodations.

The law said nothing of the kind, of course, but going to court would surely get some attention. Someone would feel badly for the poor civic servant. So they cobbled together a memorandum and set out to find a sympathetic character.

If they could.

But that isn’t as easy as it might seem. The funny thing about town clerks is that they get into that job because they like marriage, they enjoy seeing people in love, they believe commitment makes society better. And, based on what I’ve seen over the years, even in conservative communities the marriage clerks tend to support marriage equality. And in New York, rather than boycott, they opened on the weekend, some even opening at midnight.

But now their efforts have paid off. The town clerk in Ledyard in Cayuga County decided to let ADF crucify her for the cause. (

Ledyard Town Clerk Rose Marie Belforti submitted a letter to the Ledyard Town Board saying that her religious beliefs prevented her from signing marriage licenses for same-sex couples and the board discussed Belforti’s letter at Monday’s meeting, according to John Binns, a member of the town board.

When reached for comment Thursday, Belforti said “that’s not your business” before hanging up the phone.

Rose Marie Belforti (left)

Okay, well she may not be the most sympathetic character, perhaps, but you use what you’ve got.

Now if the town council is smart they’ll just say, “let’s deal with that when it comes up”. With a population of less than 2,000 residents, it might be a long long time before Rose Marie’s religious liberties are put to the test.

But, whatever they do, I think it’s important to keep in mind exactly what Rose Marie’s role is in the licensing procedure. Rose Marie doesn’t conduct the marriage. She doesn’t bless the marriage. She doesn’t attend the marriage. She doesn’t offer approval of the marriage. She doesn’t validate the information on the marriage license. She doesn’t even confirm that the marriage took place.

Rose Marie looks at identification to prove that the spouses are old enough to marry and that they are who they are, she watches them sign the marriage license, she has them swear that the information on the form is true, and she signs the affidavit: “Subscribed and sworn to/affirmed before me”.

Rose Marie’s role is nothing but a notary. I’m not putting down the importance of a notary in recognizing which documents are legally valid, but they don’t exactly participate in the negotiation or agreement that they are notarizing. They don’t object to the terms of the agreement – they don’t pay attention to them.

And according to,

“The only circumstances in which the notary may refuse to serve you is if the Notary is uncertain of a signer’s identity, willingness, mental awareness, or has cause to suspect fraud. Notaries may not refuse service on the basis of race, religion, nationality, lifestyle, or because the person is not a client or customer.

So Rose Marie essentially wants to do the job of a notary, on the taxpayer’s dollar, but unlike other notaries she wants to get veto power over the documents she signs.

Yeah…. I’m not feeling much sympathy.

The Perry approach to the Constitution

Timothy Kincaid

August 1st, 2011

Texas Governor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Perry supports the Constitution. But his support appears to be based not on principle or conceptual idea but on legality. He endorses what it says, but seems at a loss as to what it means.

Perry invokes the Tenth Amendment when he says that he supports the right of New York to define marriage as they wish. This fits well with the ‘don’t mess with Texas’ independent streak that has been a part of that state since it gave up its separate nation status. This individualist desire for self-determination, though bipartisan, fits nicely with Republican rhetoric about smaller more localized government.

But Texas, Perry, and the Republican Party are also very socially conservative. And this combination results in policy and positions that often could best be paraphrased as “give me the freedom to chart my own destiny, but you must do as I say”. And it is the second half that Perry invokes when he endorses a constitutional amendment to overrule New York’s right to its own marriage criteria.

His thinking is revealed in an interview with Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins. Gov. Perry leaped at a peculiar notion that allowed him to support Texas’ individuality while denying New York’s self determination (FRC Blog):

TONY PERKINS: Governor, we are about out of time but I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I think I hear what you are saying. The support given what’s happening across the nation, the fear of the courts, the administration’s failure to defend the defense of marriage act.

The only and thin line of protection for those states that have defined marriage, that have been historically been defined between a man and a woman. The support of a marriage amendment is a pro-state’s rights position, because it will defend the rights of states to define marriage as it has been.

GOV. PERRY: Yes sir, and I have long supported the appointment of judges who respect the constitution and the passage of a federal marriage amendment. That amendment defines marriage between one man and one woman, and it protects the states from being told otherwise. It respects the rights of the state by requiring three quarters of a states vote to ratify. It’s really strong medicine but is again our founding fathers had such great wisdom and their wisdom is just as clear and profound today as it was back in the late eighteenth century.

Perry has some small connection with principle in this statement, but it is based on false premises, perverted self interest, and results-driven thinking.

There are marriage-related issues which, one could argue, threaten a state’s right to self government. Divorce is a prime example. There is a pretty decent argument that having united two people for life, a state’s authority is challenged when another state undoes this act. But states have long since come to all provide for divorce and Perry is not challenging divorce laws.

And, using a real-case example, should Virginia refuse to recognize the custody decisions of Vermont, one could find a threat to the underlying function of federalism. But Perry is not coming down on the side of recognition.

And it must be noted that Perry is not predicating his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment on the repeal of DOMA, nor does his support extend only to protecting Texas’ autonomy. While I would oppose a constitutional amendment that was limited to giving states the right to refuse to recognize marriages conducted in other states as being deliberately discriminatory and a nightmare to negotiate or administer, I could respect those who supported such a “solution” as having some measure of consistency and logic to their position. But this is not Perry’s goal.

And it also must be clarified that Perkin’s assertions about the Defense of Marriage Act, upon which Perry leaped, are flat out distortions. The legal challenges and the government’s determinations have been limited in all instances to “Section Three: Definition of Marriage” of DOMA – that which deals with the Federal Government’s recognition of a state’s laws – and does not challenge “Section 2. Powers reserved to the states”.

Should Governor Perry truly respect a state’s right to define marriage within its borders (even over another state’s right to expect recognition of its acts by other states) then he would not be troubled by challenges to DOMA3 at all. Rather, he would support efforts to throw out this federal disrespect of states’ autonomy.

But Perry has a results-driven agenda. He wants marriage to be restricted according to his religion’s doctrines and is willing to impose those restrictions on others with no regard to self determination or personal freedoms. But to do so without contradicting his admiration for the Tenth Amendment, he spills out a justification that lacks any basis in principle.

The Tenth Amendment was not handed to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is, rather, language written to formalize and give structure to a principle. The notion underlying the words is that individuals should be governed according to shared community values and that such restrictions as are imposed on the individual should not be the result of some other community’s goals or dreams.

Interestingly, this notion is also seen in the provisions laid out for constitutional amendment. Recognizing that states would seek advantage, the authors set the rules of change to be so strict as to make imposition of unfair local or regional values on the entire nation very difficult.

And it is to these provisions that Perry appeals when he says that the rights of New York and its citizens are respected “by requiring three quarters of a states vote to ratify.” Perry argues that New York has the ability to convince just a quarter of other states to protect their autonomy. And yes, is just such an attack that the founders sought to avoid.

However, while Perry praises the language of the Constitution, he fails to see his role.

Yes, New York can appeal; but to whom? And with what argument? When the state of New York comes calling, asking for those who champion a state’s autonomy, what will Perry say?

And that is where Gov. Perry reveals his support for states’ rights to be a sham. He doesn’t really support the rights of a community of individuals to self-determination. Rather, he supports such rights such rights for him and his state, but others have this right only so long as they determine what he want them to determine.

The Catholic Church’s significant impact on marriage opinion

Timothy Kincaid

July 29th, 2011

The Washington Post has a new opinion poll out which indicates that support for marriage equality in New York continues to be greater than opposition. Politico provides some analysis on the demographic breakdowns.

Of particular interest are the responses of Catholics. The Catholic Church (and its quasi-secular adjunct, The National Organization for Marriage) was the primary voice of opposition to legal marriage rights. Bishops loudly (and sometimes rather nastily) denounced efforts to recognize same-sex couples and sought to mobilize the Roman Catholic Church’s large membership in response.

So I was interested in discovering if the Church and its teaching had any impact on the political position of the Catholic New Yorkers. And it does appear as though the Church’s teaching has significantly impacted its parishioners’ views on the subject.

Catholics are broadly supportive of the measure, with nearly 60 percent saying they view the new law favorably, although support drops off among those who attend church less frequently.

So those who go to mass more often support marriage even more? Well, preach on, Padre.

UPDATE: Alas, sad news. Politico made a typo (drat them) and it turns out that the churchy Catholics are actually less supportive of equality (48%) than the stay-at-home variety (66%).

And I also got the poll population wrong. It asked a question about the New York marriage law in addition to the more general support question and my brain evidently started the weekend before me. (thanks, Matt, for the corrections.)

New York’s new role

Timothy Kincaid

July 26th, 2011

One of the consequences of marriage equality that doesn’t get much attention in the debate is the way in which it impacts a state’s involvement in lawsuits. And yet, this is no small matter.

States have rights. Constitutionally, our nation has divided its powers between issues of national concern (such as defense) and issues of state autonomy (such as licensing of professionals). Family law, including the criteria for marriage, has been traditionally considered to be the purview of the state while the role of the federal government has been primarily limited in this area to interstate conflicts or civil rights protections.

But the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is an exception. It presumes, in paragraph 3, that the federal government holds veto power over marriage and can – for any matter that impacts any federal program – replace the state’s criteria with its own. If the marriage criteria in Vermont doesn’t meet the approval of the Senator from Alabama or the Congressman from Mississippi, then by securing a bare majority of fellow legislators they can dictate to Vermont which of its citizens can be considered married for Social Security, taxation, and health care, and which are deemed by Alabama and Mississippi to be unworthy.

This encroachment into the territory of the states was likely in violation of the US Constitution from the start. But that didn’t really matter for so long as states were limiting marriage to opposite sex couples. Courts are not receptive to abstract victims or potential loss of theoretical rights; to present your case, you need to be an aggrieved party.

And when New York’s legislature enacted marriage equality, it became an aggrieved party. Having authorized same-sex marriages, the state not only assumed the burden of protecting these marriages, but became itself a victim of federal infringement through DOMA3, and assumed the burden of protecting itself.

Actually, New York is a bit unusual in that the state recognized – though through legal interpretation rather than legislation or judicial determination – out-of-state same-sex marriages prior to their vote. So there has been, for some time, a theoretical right (though perhaps not obligation) to protect such couples as were abiding in the state but married elsewhere. But the vote removed any ambiguity; marriage equality is now the public policy and interest of the state.

And so, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has begun to defend the state’s interests. In an amicus brief (pfd) filed in the case of Windsor v. United States, in which a widow was denied tax provisions granted to heterosexual widows, he said:

By refusing to recognize for federal purposes marriages that are valid under state law, DOMA intrudes on matters historically within the control of the States, and undermines and denigrates New York’s law designed to ensure equality of same-sex and different-sex married couples. Thus DOMA threatens basic principles of federalism. Moreover, it classifies and determines access to rights, benefits, and protections based on sexual orientation, and also based on sex.

Schneiderman’s also objects to the discrimination of New Yorkers on the basis of sexual orientation and sex, and those objections are important. That is an obligation of a state and the brief is valuable in that matter. But Windsor’s lawyers can defend her interests and do so competently.

Where Schneiderman’s argument is invaluable is where it is unique, it’s defense of its own interests.

But DOMA departs from the tradition of federal respect for the States’ definition of marriage, flatly rejecting the definition of marriage in New York and five other States and thereby elevating the choices of some States above those made by other States. In doing so, DOMA threatens “the constitutional equality of the states [that] is essential to the harmonious operation of the scheme upon which the Republic was organized.” Coyne v. Smith, 221 U.S. 559, 580 (1911).

As Schneiderman implies, some State’s criteria for marriage is being applied, and it isn’t New York’s. To elevate Alabama’s laws to a national status and impose them on New York is precisely the sort of concern that consumed the constitutional convention and the US Constitution was written specifically to negotiate to what extent the separate autonomous states would act as one. Even individual rights were an afterthought.

From that time forward, Congress could not grant itself authority over matters belonging to the states. These are matters of the states alone, and the role of the federal government, congressional or judicial, has been interstate disputes and protecting the rights of the individual against the state. But Congress overstepped its bounds, and New York has joined that small club of states who have a cause to complain.

This position echoes and reinforces the position taken by Martha Coakley, the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in Commonweath v. HHS. Her lawsuit also seeks to defend the rights of Massachusetts to define the criteria for marriage for its citizens.

Politically, this issue is an area in which our opponents are awkward and in conflict. Long loud advocates for states’ rights and federalism and smaller centralized government, Republicans are uncomfortable talking about DOMA and its provisions. It is quite one thing to deny equality to gay people but the idea of championing the usurpation of a state right by Washington threatens not only party rhetoric, but a core principle which many Republicans hold dear.

Which is perhaps one reason why you don’t hear much from Congress or from party leadership in defense of DOMA. The presidential candidates, especially those who seem to be counting on the presumed stupidity of their base, try to simultaneously appeal to anti-gay prejudice and states right advocates by babbling nonsense about “respecting the decisions of the states” and also “supporting a constitutional amendment”.

But outside of the social-issue focused religious conservatives, you don’t hear many people defending the merits of DOMA. Even John Boehner, who has taken up the task of defending the law, talks more in terms of letting the courts rather than the President decide the law’s constitutionality and speaks only in the abstract about the nature of the law or defense of its merits. And even Texas Governor Rick Perry, a strong opponent to gay rights in Texas, surprised some conservatives with his take: (AP)

“Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me,” he said to applause from several hundred GOP donors in Aspen, Colo. “That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business.”

Ultimately, there need be (and will be) a Supreme Court decision that finds that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by the federal, state, and other government is in conflict with the US Constitution. But now that more than ten percent of the nation’s citizens live with conflicting state and federal marriage criteria, it may be the violation of the Tenth Amendment upon which DOMA is decided.

Weddings Blossom In New York

Jim Burroway

July 25th, 2011

Phyllis Siegel, 76, and Connie Kopelov, 84, seconds after being pronounced legally married.

It has been a big day for marriages in New York City, where hundreds of gay couples solemnized their relationships on the first legal day of marriage equality. As promised, Mayor Michael Bloomberg got into the act when he officiated at the wedding of two of his staff members with the couple’s two daughters looking on. Phyllis Siegel, 76, and Connie Kopelov, 84, finally made honest women of each other after twenty-three years of waiting for this day. They were the first couple married in Manhattan. The New York Times celebrated with an entire Style section devoted to the nuptials. The also report that with marriage equality arriving in the Empire State, everything associated with marriage is now equal — including parents bugging their kids about when they’re finally going to tie the knot.

Niagara Falls celebrates marriage equality

You can check out this Flickr stream for more marriage photos.  The Times’s City Room blog has more, with stories. And Andy Towle also has a good round-up from across the state.

Of course, there were protesters on hand in Manhattan, nearly all of them bussed in.

Bishop demands that gays get married

Timothy Kincaid

July 20th, 2011

The new marriage equality law in New York not only changed the ability of gay people to marry, it also introduced a requirement for some of them to do so. (Christian Post)

In the wake of gay marriage soon becoming a legal institution in the state of New York, the Episcopal Bishop of Long Island, has ordered that homosexual priests wed their partners.

Long Island Episcopal Bishop Lawrence Provenzano has put his foot down against gay clergy who residing in homosexual relationships, and has given a nine month deadline for them to either get married or stop living together, according to the News Observer.

“I need to be mindful that the church has always asked people to live in committed monogamous, faithful relationships. I won’t allow heterosexual clergy to live in a rectory or church housing without the benefit of marriage. When one puts it in that context, then you see how it all begins to make sense,” said Provenzano.

Sounds fair to me.

The entirely bogus “religious convictions” objection

Timothy Kincaid

July 20th, 2011

One of the whiny complaints made by anti-gay activists about New York’s new marriage equality bill is that it is not sensitive to the religious convictions of public employees. The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue (who appears to waging a PR campaign to equal Catholicism with pigheaded bigotry) is all wounded and martyry about it in a commentary today:

Indeed, under New York State law, the onus is on the employer to show that it would cause “undue hardship” if an employee were to exercise his “sincerely held” religious beliefs.

Now it is fatuous to say that it would cause an “undue hardship” in the workplace if clerks, and deputy clerks, who do not have an issue with giving marriage licenses to homosexuals handled these matters for those who do. It cannot be said too strongly: Bullying those who have religious objections is despicable.

There is an obvious hole in New York’s gay marriage law: religious exemptions need to be extended to lay people, not just the clergy.

Well, I’m all for respecting sincerely held religious beliefs. But I’m failing to find one here.

Sure there are people who sincerely believe that I should not marry a person of the same sex. And due to those beliefs, they would not attend my wedding, conduct the vows, offer a blessing, or even congratulate me. And I wouldn’t expect them to.

But while I’m familiar with the Bible and pretty up on how religion is practiced in America, I am unaware of any doctrine of any sect that forbids its followers to hand me a piece of paper . That’s what we’re talking about, issuing a form, typing responses in a database. And there are no doctrinal assessments I know of which assign responsibility or any presumption of participation – not even those of the Catholic Church – from the issuance or filing of forms.

Some Christians read in the verse portion from Habakkuk “woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk…” a prohibition on working in a bar or liquor store. Some are even troubled at serving alcoholic beverages as a waitress or grocery clerk. But I’ve never heard even the most conservative of Christians argue that they have some obligation not to hand out the form to request a liquor license.

And it goes without saying that many churches, the Catholic Church in particular, oppose the very existence of medical clinics which offer abortion services. Yet they do not suggest that the County Building Inspector refuse to issue a building license or that the city Clerk refuse to process a Business License. None of this administrative process is considered to be a part of, or the administrators culpable for, the abortions that will be conducted at the site.

There simply are no religious beliefs held by any of these public employees, sincerely or otherwise, which forbid them to administer the paperwork involved with any other businesses, marriages, divorces, or other vital statistics which they find morally objectionable. And if there were, their argument is a bit specious considering that they’ve been violating those beliefs with regularity for years.

Now I have less of a problem with Rosemary Centi, the city clerk in upstate Guilderland, who resigned from her position as marriage officer out of her religious conviction that she should not conduct gay marriages. But she will continue to remain the elected town clerk and issue marriage licenses to all eligible applicants, including gay couples. While I think it a rather peculiar belief that allows you to officiate at marriage between divorcees or people of mixed faith but not gay people, I don’t doubt that her decision is sincere. And I have to respect that Rosemary was able to distinguish between her own personal involvement as officiant and the processing of paperwork.

And I think that this distinction is perfectly obvious to any who think about it.

Why is it that some people would rather quit their jobs than treat gay couples with the same bureaucratic procedure as anyone else standing in line at the clerk’s counter? What is behind the peculiar notion that a public employee can deny civil services to a member of the public if they don’t pass their personal religious test? It certainly isn’t Scripture or doctrine or consistent moral character.

So perhaps Bill Donohue should consider whether he’s doing his church a favor by making this a big deal. His efforts to make Catholics look like victims may result in making them look like something else entirely.

Yeah, Bishop, be an asshole. That’ll show ’em

Timothy Kincaid

July 8th, 2011

The Catholic Church is an institution with a reputation that few would wish for. Currently perceived by many as an international pedophile ring and headed up by a man who looks like he was cast for the role of Evil Sorcerer in a cheap Hollywood thriller, the Church’s public image problem has seldom been worse. And in response to this image catastrophe, the Church seems to have collectively agreed upon one course of action: whenever possible be an asshole.

Now this doesn’t seem to me to be the most effective way of regaining the trust and goodwill of the people, but it certainly seems to be what they’ve decided.

You can’t help but wonder who came up with this gem of a strategy: Rather than be known as a caretaker of sacred art, an ancient tradition of spiritual learning, a voice for personal integrity, and an advocate for the downtrodden, make your church’s highest visibility all about denying rights to gays and encouraging the poor to disregard economic realities in deciding family growth.

Oh, and to really prove your point, find those few areas in which you still have public goodwill and be a great big puckered oozing asshole.

If people respect your adoption programs, shut them down and blame gay people. If people see nuns as being selfless and devoted, close the nunnery to pay settlements for pedophile priests. And be sure that your spiritual leaders take actions that make them look like corrupt back-room finagling politicians; Because who doesn’t love a politician?

And at all times be an asshole in the most obnoxious, hostile, arrogant and truly hateful way. If you need a presence on television, why who could be better than Bill Donohue? And if social trends show that society is coming to see same-sex couples in a positive light, then make sure that the public sees you as the primary party seeking to uphold discrimination (and be certain to talk a lot about destroying society and perversion, that will be remembered well).

Ah yes, it’s a brilliant plan.

And right in line with this strategy is the response of the Bishop of Brooklyn to the New York marriage vote: If you voted for marriage equality, then you can’t give to needy children.

I kid you not. (Christian Post)

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio

Joseph Lentol, an assemblyman representing Brooklyn’s 50th district, saw firsthand just how serious the Brooklyn Diocese was. The Catholic legislative assembly member who openly voted for same-sex marriage made a donation to Our Lady of Mt Carmel Parish School. The donation was declined.

Along with the return of his $50 donation, Lentol received a letter from Monsignor Joseph Calise, the church pastor. The letter stated: “Bishop DiMarzio has requested that all gifts received from politicians supporting same-sex marriage legislation be refused.”

Marketing genius, I tell ya. Sheer marketing genius.

New Yorkers support marriage bill

Timothy Kincaid

June 29th, 2011

A Quinnipiac poll reveals support for New York’s new marriage equality law. Between June 20 and June 26, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,317 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points.

24. Would you support or oppose a law that would allow same-sex couples to get married?

Support 54%
Oppose 40%
DK/NA 5%

Considering that this poll bracketed the June 24 vote and that the marriage bill occupied front page coverage during that period, it is fair to assume that the results for the theoretical “a law” can be imputed to the law that was passed.

This certainly must not be happy news for Maggie Gallagher and the National Organization for Marriage. Their stated plan for reversing marriage equality in New York is to

PHASE 1: Elect pro-marriage majorities next November that will approve a marriage amendment in both the Assembly and Senate during the 2013 legislative session.

PHASE 2: Protect pro-marriage candidates in the 2014 elections, so that the amendment can receive final legislative approval in the 2015 legislative session.

PHASE 3: Successfully pass the ballot measure when it goes before voters in November 2015.

I don’t think that this is intended as self-parody.

NY GOP Marriage Supporter May Turn Democrat

Jim Burroway

June 28th, 2011

New York statesman and freshman state Senator Mark Grisanti ( (R-Erie and Niagara Co), who eloquently described why he supported that state’s marriage quality law even though he campaigned against in in 2010, is taking withering flack –his local hometown paper describes them as “withering body blows” –from conservatives and fellow members of the Republican party:

Grisanti fared no better with his own party as Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy made clear his disapproval that the senator went his own way on a key issue.

“For Mark to go back on his word that he gave to his constituents and to me — I am deeply disappointed,” Langworthy said.

… Langworthy and Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo were especially critical of his reneging on a promise to vote against the measure while campaigning last year.

“He informed me by text while he was on the floor,” Langworthy said of Grisanti’s Friday vote. “I urged him to stick by his word he had given. The people elected him on what he ran on. This is not tax policy or something. This is important stuff.”

Important stuff — more important to the GOP than the economy.

Got it.

Grisanti now says that he won’t rule out running for re-election as a Democrat, after rejecting the idea following his vote last Friday.

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