New York’s legalization of same-sex marriage has concerned religious groups in the state that oppose homosexuality, including Roman Catholics. The bill that ended up scoring enough votes to pass the state legislature Friday evening includes an amendment ensuring their religious freedoms over the issue.
“The expanded religious protections were an important factor in obtaining final passage. The protections apply to several categories of organizations and their employees: (1) religious entities, such as churches; (2) ‘benevolent orders’, such as the Knights of Columbus; (3) any non-profit corporation operated, supervised or controlled by a religious corporation; (4) any employee of these organizations,” wrote Howard Friedman, emeritus professor at the University of Toledo College of Law. “For these groups, notwithstanding any state or local law or regulation, they are not required to provide accommodations, facilities, goods or services for any marriage ceremony. Nor is any member of the clergy required to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony. Refusal to provide facilities or perform a ceremony will not give rise to any civil claim or to any governmental action discriminating against the groups or clergy or imposing a penalty or withholding benefits. The new law also assures religious organizations that provisions in New York’s anti-discrimination law that allow them to favor members of their own religion in employment, sales, rental of housing, admission or other preferences and to take other action to promote their religious principles, are still in effect.
The new law does not create exemptions for individuals with religious objections who own private businesses that offer their facilities for weddings to refuse to make them available for same-sex ceremonies.”
Opponents of gay marriage sometimes argue that their churches won’t be allowed to discriminate against gay couples, but this exemption explicitly rules that out. (Not to mention that plenty of churches are discriminatory with their marriage requirements and regularly restrict ceremonies to couples in their faith tradition or even in their Catholic parish.)