Both sides of the same-sex marriage issue agree on one crucial element: New York’s approval of gay marriage launched a national movement. But they disagree strongly on the ultimate result.
Proponents embrace it as ushering in a new wave of equality, while opponents deride it as undermining traditional marriage. A Catholic bishop in New York even denounces it as an example of corrupt politics that has “demonized people of faith, whether they be Muslims, Jews, or Christians.”
The gay marriage advocates envision the Empire State’s becoming the sixth state to legalize it as a huge development that will propel efforts for similar laws across the country. Opponents see it as a monumental call to arms to defeat such measures and stand instead for marriage only between a man and a woman.
Other states where battle lines have formed include Minnesota, Maine, North Carolina, and New Hampshire, with more in the offing.
The first targets for opponents of same-sex marriage are the four Republican senators in New York they contend are traitors to their traditional conservative cause, according to The New York Times
“This fight is far from over,” the National Organization for Marriage told supporters shortly after New York’s law passed June 24 as it pledged to spend $2 million in 2012 to defeat what it described as four “turncoat senators” who “betrayed marriage,” the Times reported.
The organization expects to raise $20 million this year from Roman Catholic and evangelical Christian groups, as well as individual donors, in preparation for pitched battles over same-sex marriage in several other states. Voters in 29 states have adopted constitutional amendments banning it.
On the Roman Catholic side of the ledger, New York Archbishop Timothy J. Dolan sent a letter above his signature and those of the state’s seven other Catholic bishops expressing fear that the measure would lead to recriminations against churches who object to the practice. Although the law exempts churches that opt not to perform gay marriages because of their own tenets, the letter says, “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,” that marriage must be between a man and a woman.
Similarly, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Brooklyn Diocese decried the new law and told Catholic school officials to bar Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is a Catholic, and legislators who helped pass the law from speaking engagements at their institutions.
“Republicans and Democrats alike succumbed to powerful political elites and have passed legislation that will undermine our families and, as a consequence, our society,” DiMarzio said. “With this vote, Governor Cuomo has opened a new front in the culture wars that are tearing at the fabric of our nation.”
Banning those who voted for the bill is intended to be a “protest of the corrupt political process in New York State,” DeMarzio said. “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.’”
Along similar lines, officials at the Family Research Council, one of the largest conservative Christian advocacy groups, said they expect a jump in donations to oppose gay marriage initiatives. “More than ever before, people are seeing this as a national issue,” the council’s senior vice president, Tom McClusky, told the Times.
National and state groups opposing same-sex marriage have raised millions of dollars in recent years and scored major victories, such as the unseating last fall of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who had ruled against marriage restrictions.
But some contend that gay rights groups harass their donors to undermine their fundraising efforts, although the Times notes that gay rights group counter that such claims are exaggerated.
In Minnesota, where both sides are preparing for a vote next year on a constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage, conservatives are fighting financial disclosure requirements that they say would expose donors to such intimidation, the Times reported.
Several local and national groups are joining a campaign in support of the amendment, Jason Adkins, the executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, told the Times. But fundraising won’t start in earnest until the disclosure issues are settled, he said.
Gay rights groups such as the Human Rights Campaign say their victory in New York, which is by far the largest state to adopt same-sex marriage, gives them momentum. They say that time is on their side and that a reversal in New York is improbable because people will realize that that same-sex marriages are no threat as they become more common.
The Times lists these battles as under way:
- In Maine, gay rights proponents are gathering signatures to put same-sex marriage on the ballot next year.
- In North Carolina, the Republican-controlled Legislature is expected to consider setting a referendum on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in November 2012.
- In New Hampshire, pressure is building on the Legislature to reverse the state law allowing gay marriage there.
- In Maryland, gay rights advocates plan to press for another referendum on a same-sex marriage law that fell to a last-minute push of opposition this year.
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