Friday, June 24, 2011

In New York, Marriage "Altered Radically and Forever"

At 10.30 tonight, after weeks of heated debate and charged negotiations, the New York Senate approved a same-sex marriage bill by a 33-29 vote, making the Empire State the sixth -- and, by far, most consequential -- Stateside jurisdiction to enact full legal status for gay unions.

Within minutes of the result -- signed into law an hour later by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (above) and slated to take effect in 30 days' time -- the following statement was released by the New York bishops, who provided the measure's lead institutional opposition:
The passage by the Legislature of a bill to alter radically and forever humanity’s historic understanding of marriage leaves us deeply disappointed and troubled.

We strongly uphold the Catholic Church’s clear teaching that we always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love. But we just as strongly affirm that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, loving union that is open to children, ordered for the good of those children and the spouses themselves. This definition cannot change, though we realize that our beliefs about the nature of marriage will continue to be ridiculed, and that some will even now attempt to enact government sanctions against churches and religious organizations that preach these timeless truths.

We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization.

Our society must regain what it appears to have lost – a true understanding of the meaning and the place of marriage, as revealed by God, grounded in nature, and respected by America’s foundational principles.
While the influential Catholic Conference overseen by the prelates coordinated the church's intense lobbying effort in the halls of the Albany Capitol -- and won significant conscience protections for religious organizations opposed to the unions in the legislation's final draft -- the decision of the majority-Republican body represents a particularly heavy blow for the state's metropolitan, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who waged the most concerted public-policy push of his 26-month tenure in Gotham to battle for the bill's defeat.

Despite the loss, however, it was a notable sign of the church's clout in the debate leading up to the final vote that two of the three senators who rose to explain their support for the bill cited their own Catholic roots as a key point of tension in their respective paths toward approving the move.

The lone pre-vote speech backing the bishops' stance on the legislation came from the plan's leading opponent in the chamber, Democratic Sen. Reuben Diaz of the Bronx, a Pentecostal minister.

SVILUPPO: While the New York bishops principally responded to the vote as a group, shortly after the measure's passage, the following eruptive reaction came from the head of the state's second-largest diocese, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn:
Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature have deconstructed the single most important institution in human history. Republicans and Democrats alike succumbed to powerful political elites and have passed legislation that will undermine our families and as a consequence, our society.

With this vote, Governor Cuomo has opened a new front in the culture wars that are tearing at the fabric of our nation. At a time when so many New Yorkers are struggling to stay in their homes and find jobs, we should be working together to solve these problems. However, the politicians have curried favor with wealthy donors who are proponents of a divisive agenda in order to advance their own careers and futures.

What is needed in our state is leadership and not political gamesmanship.

In light of these disturbing developments and in protest for this decision, I have asked all Catholic schools to refuse any distinction or honors bestowed upon them this year by the governor or any member of the legislature who voted to support this legislation. Furthermore, I have asked all pastors and principals to not invite any state legislator to speak or be present at any parish or school celebration.

The above request is intended as a protest of the corrupt political process in New York State. More than half of all New Yorkers oppose this legislation. Yet, the governor and the state legislature have demonized people of faith, whether they be Muslims, Jews, or Christians, and identified them as bigots and prejudiced, and voted in favor of same-sex “marriage.” It is mystifying that this bill would be passed on the last day of an extended session under the cover of darkness.

This issue has been framed as upholding marriage equality. This is not the case since one of the principal purposes of marriage is to bring new life into the world. This cannot happen in same-sex marriage. It is not a civil rights issue, but rather a human rights issue upholding the age-old understanding of marriage. Our political leaders do not believe their own rhetoric. If they did, how in good conscience could they carve out any exemption for institutions that would be proponents of bigotry and prejudice?

Republicans and Democrats equally share responsibility for this ruinous legislation and we as Catholics should hold all accountable for their actions.
PHOTO: Nathaniel Brooks/The New York Times