Bishops React to NY Same Sex Marriage Law
The bill legalizing same-sex marriage signed into law June 24 by New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo represents a “radical act of social engineering,” the state’s Catholic bishops said.
Barring legal challenges, the new law takes effect in late July. New York will join five other states, along with the District of Columbia, that currently permit same-sex marriage. The other states are Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.
New York’s bishops described themselves as “disappointed and troubled” after the state legislature approved the bill. They said:
“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.”
Today’s 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,” said the state’s bishops.
In a June 25 message, the bishops thanked Catholic New Yorkers, as well as the many state legislators “who voted to reject this bill.” The bishops said, “Both you and they were accused of bigotry for simply defending the timeless understanding of marriage.”
But New York’s bishops said that for Catholics there was “particular disappointment with those elected officials who publicly profess fidelity to our Catholic religion, but whose public stance is at odds with a fundamental teaching of that faith.”
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn commented that the new law “will undermine our families and, as a consequence, our society.” To protest what he called “the corrupt political process in New York state,” Bishop Dimarzio asked pastors and school principals not to invite “any state legislator to speak or be present at any parish or school celebration.”
The Brooklyn bishop also “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.”
New York’s new law, “The Marriage Equality Act,” says that “a marriage that is otherwise valid shall be valid regardless of whether the parties to the marriage are of the same or different sex.”
Gov. Cuomo said the bill’s passage meant that “marriage equality will become a reality in our state.” He praised the law, which he strongly supported, on grounds that it accorded “fairness” to same-sex couples, as well as hundreds of marital rights and benefits previously reserved to opposite-sex couples.
A last-minute amendment to the legislation that apparently was instrumental in its passage is designed to protect members of the clergy and some others from legal action for refusing to officiate at same-sex weddings. Religious and benevolent organizations also are protected from legal action or penalties for refusing to provide facilities for these weddings.
Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, Calif., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said June 28 that New York’s same-sex marriage law represents an “abandonment of the common good.”
He cautioned that “making marriage law indifferent to the absence of either sex creates an institutional and cultural crisis with generational ramifications yet to be seen.” Furthermore, he said, “to eliminate marriage’s very essence – its essence as the union of husband and wife – from its legal definition is to ignore not only basic anthropology and biology, but also the purpose of law generally.”
Law, Bishop Cordileone explained, “is meant to uphold the common good, not undermine it.” But “now New York’s government will be forced to ignore that children have a basic right to be raised by their mother and father together,” he said.
Earlier, during the U.S. Catholic bishops’ mid-June national meeting in Bellevue, Wash., Bishop Cordileone said in an address to the bishops that “the myth of the inevitability of same-sex ‘marriage’ remains just that – a myth.” But he said “the urgency to defend marriage continues.”
Bishop Cordileone observed how organizations promoting a new legal definition of marriage “label themselves as being for ‘human rights’ and against ‘hate.’” However, “the church’s social teaching offers the strongest and most consistent testimony in the world to upholding basic human rights, equal dignity and avoiding all unjust discrimination,” he said.
“What we’re against,” the bishop emphasized, “is the hijacking of these principles … for the purposes of redefining marriage.”
After New York’s law permitting same-sex marriage was signed, New York’s bishops said that “redefining marriage has nothing to do with civil rights.” They noted that “the Catholic Church has a proud history in this country’s civil rights movement for African-Americans.” But the present situation is “in no way analogous” to that movement, they said.
The debate today “focuses on a small group of persons, whose human rights must always be respected and defended by us all, but who claim a civil right to redefine marriage for all of society based on a private and personal preference,” the bishops stated.
They said that while “our culture seems to have lost a basic understanding of marriage, we Catholics must not. We must be models of what is good, holy and sacred about authentic sacramental marriage.”