Morning Read: Is gay marriage debate about religious freedom or bigotry?

Albany is down to the wire this week on a wide range of issues and one of the biggest is same-sex marriage.  The state Senate is one vote away from a deal that would make New York the sixth state in the country to approve gay marriage.

This morning’s newspapers offer sort of the two faces of what this debate is about.  The one side looks and sounds like a reasoned debate among civilized people.  This from the AP via the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Will the Knights of Columbus be required to open their halls for gay weddings if New York lawmakers legalize same-sex marriage?

Will Catholic adoption agencies be forced to choose between placing children with gay couples or leaving the business?

As New York moves closer to a vote on legislation that would make it the sixth and largest state to allow same-sex marriage, some Republicans want stronger legal protections for religious organizations that object to the practice.

That, I think, is a pretty reasonable conversation to be having, especially in a state like New York where religious institutions — from hospitals to drug treatment centers to job programs — are often run by religious groups.

What happens when a gay couple wants services from such an organization?  And what happens if that organization is using taxpayer funds?  Can they still choose not to serve gays or lesbians?

(I actually think this part of the discussion needs to be broadened.  What happens if a taxpayer-funded religious group chooses, based on their beliefs, to deny serve to anyone, on grounds of race or religion or sexual orientation?)

As always, it’s a bit dodgy that Albany has left these questions until the last minute, but that’s the way things work in New York state.

But it’s only fair to point out that there’s another side to this debate, one with a much uglier face.  The Press Republican is reporting this morning that Clinton County legislator Sam Trombley from Ellenburg uncorked a doozy of a rant this week against gay couples.

“You don’t see two male dogs sleeping in the same dog house together,” he said [during a public meeting].  “It blows my mind to think of it.”

Trombley went on to describe gay couples as diseased, suggesting that “we are going to have an HIV epidemic if this passes.”

I think it’s hard to dismiss the fact that this kind of bald-faced Jim Crow style bigotry fuels a lot of the opposition to marriage equality, in New York state and around the country.

According to the Press Republican, Trombley suggested that New York state has better things to do with its time than debate the civil rights of the human beings he he describes as diseased dogs.

But I think his comments prove that this is exactly the right time to have this discussion, both in our homes over the dinner table, in our churches and other places of worship, and in our civic forums and legislature.

This is a tough subject, so please keep it civil and thoughtful.

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78 Comments on “Morning Read: Is gay marriage debate about religious freedom or bigotry?”

  1. Bret4207 says:

    I’m pretty sure this will pass, if not now then very soon. This does bring us to the question of how much legality there is in the idea of gov’t being able to force a religious organization to do something. The “separation of church and state” idea keeps religious organizations from influencing/controlling gov’t, isn’t the gov’t barred from doing the same to the religious organization? Where is the line of right and wrong here? I’m in the camp that believes a private organization should be left alone by gov’t unless real harm is being done. I doubt a Catholic hospital will turn away an injured gay person, and if gays wish to adopt ( I wish more people would) then they have many, many other venues besides Catholic adoption agencies. I’m sure many here would support the idea of the K of C turning away a white supremest group from using their halls, don’t they have the right to choose whom they allow within their property?

    As for the taxpayer funding adding to the mix, well, stop letting religious organizations go tax free and there’s part of the solution. The City of Ogdensburg would be awash in money if the Church and State had to pay property taxes like the rest of us. Lose that tax free status and that adds ammo to the argument in favor of leaving the religious entities alone. It’s not a complete fix, but it helps.

    Trombley stuck his foot in it. There are much more eloquent ways of parsing your opinion. “Nuance” as Brian calls it. It can make all the difference in how what you say is perceived.

    And yes Brian, it is a bit dodgy that the legislature waited until the last minute to consider the unintended consequences, but it’s nothing new. IME the NYS Legislature NEVER considers the ramifications of their actions beyond the consideration of votes and money, ever.

  2. JDM says:

    Being gay is not ok, in my opinion. I stand firmly on that belief.

    This will invoke calls of bigotry, I realize, as it does everytime I post this belief on this blog. So be it.

    Each time I am called a bigot, the same posters who call me a bigot demonstrate their own closemindedness, which I gladly point out, so save yourselves the trouble and don’t bother with name calling.

    Since I believe that being gay is not ok, I also believe that affirming gay marriage is not ok. I am not alone. The halls of the state office office were filled with supporters on both sides of the issue earlier this week.

    It is not a foregone conclusion that everyone accepts gay behavior.

    I will not call a person a name or demean them as the quoted Senator did.

    I do not support this behavior.

  3. JDM says:

    I may as well post the wiki definition of bigotry now, before the name calling begins:

    A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one exhibiting intolerance, and animosity toward those of differing beliefs.

    I stated my opinion without putting down anyone else’s opinion that may be different that my own.

    If you assign me the title of bigot, you have assigned yourself that title.

  4. PNElba says:

    “we are going to have an HIV epidemic if this passes” Actually, it’s more likely to reduce the incidence of HIV infection if gay couples are in a committed relationship.

  5. Pete Klein says:

    The various religions routinely refuse to marry heterosexuals for a variety of reasons. Why would anyone think it would be different with homosexuals?
    The Catholic Church doesn’t give Communion to non-Catholics. Both Holy Communion and Marriage are sacraments within the church.
    My only complaint with the Church has been and remains is how it gives in to the government and require you to obtain a marriage license from the government before it will provide the sacrament of marriage to practicing Catholics.

  6. “The “separation of church and state” idea keeps religious organizations from influencing/controlling gov’t…”

    This is a misconstructed statement. The separation keeps them from controlling government (in theory), but as we seen time and time again, not from influencing it.

    JDM: You may think being gay is not acceptable. That’s your prerogative. We are obligated to accept many behaviors or, states of being that we do not care for. It is the price of a free society. I do not like your beliefs on this topic. But I will not seek to ban them. I trust you will reciprocate. Of course, the point of this debate is not to impose universal acceptance of gays. It’s to grant them the rights owed them as law-abiding, first class citizens.

  7. First, there is no “right” to participate in the adoption industry. Church-affiliated agencies are subject to the same laws and regulations as other agencies on other areas, so why not this one? Adoption is not a religious practice.

    But let’s take this argument one step further. Should Jewish run hospitals be able to reject Catholic patients? Would a secular adoption agency be able to refuse placing children with religious people?

    Religious people should be careful about the “exceptions” they demand on this issue because they could be used against them in the future.

  8. JDM: Out of curiosity, if I told you I thought belief in religion was not ok, would you consider me a bigot?

  9. john says:

    In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association dropped homosexuality as a disorder from it’s “Diagnostics and Statistics Manual”, (DSM). To call homosexuality a disease is, at this point, factually incorrect. Go back to the quotes of Sam Trombley. Instead of, ‘homosexual’, insert the word, Methodist or Jew or Catholic or Muslim or Atheist or male or female or black or latino etc. The real point is that if homosexuality is not a disorder, then it falls into the realm of ‘normal’ human behavior. If all ‘normal’ people have an individual right to marry, as guaranteed in the bill of rights, on what basis do we justify denying gays the right to marry? By using constitutional religious guarantees to deny constitutional personal liberty guarantees? Sounds a wee bit hypocritical. Personal liberty means that the freedom is protected from, ” … the tyranny of majorities”. The founders knew that majorities were not always right and so they attached the Bill of Rights to the rest of the constitution. You don’t have to approve of or like how someone exercises their freedom, but it we all need to respect their right to live normal lives, free from government interference.

  10. JDM says:

    Brian NOFYC: JDM: Out of curiosity, if I told you I thought belief in religion was not ok, would you consider me a bigot?

    Absolutely not. Having an opinion doesn’t make you a bigot. Not being tolerant of opinions other than your own does.

  11. JDM says:

    Brian:
    “We are obligated to accept many behaviors”

    Are we?

    How about murder?

    You see, some behaviors are good for society.

  12. Dave says:

    JDM,

    You seem to be taking some comfort in the idea that you can hold bigoted opinions without actually being a bigot, simply because you don’t call people names.

    This is an argument that could be used to justify just about any oppressive, hateful opinion.

    You could use your line of thinking to state a belief that African Americans should not be free or equal citizens… then claim not to be a bigot because you said this in a nice, civil way… without putting others down.

    But part of what you are missing is that you ARE putting others down. And in a way that is much more troublesome than if you simply called them a bad name. You are saying it is wrong to be who they are and that because of who they are they can not do things the rest of us can… you are absolutely “putting them down”

    Here, the part you seem to be ignoring from your own definition: “A Bigot is a person… especially one exhibiting intolerance”

    I can think of no more intolerant act than telling people they can not do something simply because of who they are, and because you do not agree with them.

  13. TomL says:

    If a religious-affiliated organization takes state funds, it is obligated to serve ALL taxpayers, even the ones it doesn’t like. So no, I can’t see where an organization that takes state funds can discriminate against taxpayers/residents of the state – by race, gender, disability or sexual preference. If a religious-affiliated organization feels a need to discriminate, it needs to do it on its own nickle.

  14. Peter Hahn says:

    Seems to me there is a difference between being prejudiced against a group, and being a bigot. JDM is prejudiced against gay people, but does that make him a bigot?

  15. JDM says:

    Peter Hahn:

    I am predisposed to gay behavior, not gay people. There is a difference.

  16. JDM says:

    Dave:

    I take it you have an opinion that is different that mine.

  17. PNElba says:

    JDM, maybe your predisposition (def. tendency to suffer from a particular condition) to gay behavior can be treated.

  18. JDM says:

    PNElba:

    Or perhaps your predisposition to my opinion can be treated.

    Come on. Where’s your opinion? Stop worrying about little ol’ JDM, and tell us what you think about the subject at hand.

  19. Dave says:

    I’m fine with you having a different opinion JDM. I am not fine with you discriminating based on it.

  20. Mayflower says:

    Interesting conversation. It’s important to distinguish between (a) “Being gay is not ok, in my opinion” and (b) “Laws must conform to my opinion.”

    I’m absolutely OK with JDM holding firmly to his opinion. I’m not OK with the notion that JDM’s opinion must be the law of the land.

  21. Bob C. says:

    JDM, I will fight to the wall to defend your right to your opinion about this or anything else, but to deny that your anti-gay feelings and comments – and willingness to deprive them of equal rights – is ludicrous.

    Why are people afraid of homosexual behavior? It’s been around as long as humans have.

  22. JDM says:

    Dave: “I am not fine with you discriminating based on it.”

    Not sure where you got this idea from. I don’t discriminate based on behavior. I do try to persuade others to see things my way. I suppose that is what you are doing as well.

    Mayflower:

    Well said. Let’s put it to a vote.

  23. Bob C. says:

    Whoops! I omitted a phrase in there…..to deny “your opinion is bigotry” goes in there.

    Sorry!

  24. hermit thrush says:

    Not sure where you got this idea from. I don’t discriminate based on behavior.

    baloney. of course you do:

    Since I believe that being gay is not ok, I also believe that affirming gay marriage is not ok.

  25. JDM says:

    Bob C.

    Why are people afraid of anti-gay positions?

    I saw about an equal amount of supports and protestors on Monday at the Senate building. (actually, I would say 60-40 against, but that is my opinion, not scientific evidence).

    A certain percentage want gay marriage, and a certain percentage do not.

    I want to persuade people to my way of thinking, and so do you.

    I am not afraid of you, or those who follow your beliefs. Are you afraid of me and those who differ from you?

  26. JDM says:

    Bob C. “Whoops! I omitted a phrase in there…..to deny “your opinion is bigotry” goes in there.”

    Here we go with the “B” word.

    Bob C. are you as committed to your opinion as I am to mine?

  27. JDM says:

    hermit thrush:

    Are you as committed to your opinion as I am to mine?

  28. JDM says:

    Dave:

    Are you committed to your opinion as I am to mine?

  29. PNElba says:

    JDM, I was simply giving a definition of a word, just as you did several posts up.

    “A certain percentage want gay marriage, and a certain percentage do not. “

    No. A certain percentage want to treat people equally, and a certain percentage do not.

  30. Dave says:

    JDM,

    I am not sure what level of semantics you are angling for now with the “are you committed to your opinion” shtick, but I think what several people have told you is that we are committed to everyone having an opinion – including you – as long as it is not used to discriminate.

    If you are not sure where we get the idea that you support discrimination…

    This is where: “I also believe that affirming gay marriage is not ok.”

    It is possible I am misinterpreting that, but I read it as you saying you do not think gay marriage should be allowed. Denying someone the ability to do something that you can because of who they are, or because you disagree with them.

  31. hermit thrush says:

    jdm,
    your response is kind of… weird. i’m just pointing out what sure looks to me like a direct contradiction you’re making: you claim you don’t discriminate based on behavior, yet that’s exactly what you’re proposing to do to gay people. i don’t see how your response relates to that at all.

  32. hermit thrush says:

    or in other words: what dave said. (he beat me to the punch!)

  33. JDM says:

    Dave:

    “several people” hold my opinion. Not as many with my opinion hang out here as they do in the halls of the Senate, apparently.

    If you are committed to your opinion, and I to mine, then neither of us can claim the high ground.

    Let’s put it to a vote, and have a law that we all must abide by, or change, as we see fit.

    Your discrimination argument is simply your attempt to sell your opinion.

    I, on the other hand, disagree with you.

    Gay marriage is very bad for society, in my opinion.

  34. JDM says:

    hermit thrush:

    I also say to you that you are trying to sell me on your opinion, and I am trying to persuade you otherwise.

    Gay marriage is very bad for society, in my opinion.

  35. Peter Hahn says:

    JDM gets the brunt of this (thanks for being available). JDM – would you be ok with gay marriage if they promised not to have sex with each other? I assume thats the behavior you object to.

  36. hermit thrush says:

    that’s nice jdm but it’s besides the point. i haven’t said anything in this thread to push an opinion. all i was saying is that you seem to have landed in a nice fat contradiction. the way to reply to that is to address the contradiction head-on. if you don’t discriminate based on behavior, then how can you seek to deny marriage to gay people?

  37. JDM says:

    hermit thrush: “if you don’t discriminate based on behavior, then how can you seek to deny marriage to gay people?”

    1) defeat the law permitting gay marriage
    2) seek to change behavior through prayer, counseling, love, etc.

  38. JDM says:

    Peter Hahn:

    “JDM gets the brunt of this (thanks for being available).”

    No problem. After all, I am here to persuade people to my opinion.

  39. hermit thrush says:

    ha ha ha! ok, that’s funny jdm. i don’t mean “how” as in how you’ll seek to go about denying marriage to gay people. i mean “how” as in how does it square that on the one hand you claim not to discriminate based on behavior, but on the other that’s exactly what you’re proposing to do to gay people?

  40. hermit thrush says:

    and this bit of silliness from jdm shouldn’t be allowed to stand any longer:

    If you assign me the title of bigot, you have assigned yourself that title.

    i mean, it’s kind of a clever gambit as a way to try to insulate yourself from charges of bigotry. but it doesn’t fly. the act of identifying an instance of bigotry is not itself an act of bigotry.

  41. Dave says:

    JDM,

    You keep trying to make this about opinions, when we keep telling you it is about discrimination.

    You can have whatever opinions you want. You and I can personally agree or disagree, and we can try to convince one another… this matters not.

    What matters is when you try to deny others the ability to do something because you disagree with who they are or what they believe.

    That is a distinction which I am sure you are capable of understanding. No one is asking you to suddenly accept or agree with people you don’t approve of, we’re just saying it is not ok to discriminating against them.

  42. Bret4207 says:

    PNElba said- “A certain percentage want gay marriage, and a certain percentage do not. ”

    No. A certain percentage want to treat people equally, and a certain percentage do not.”

    I disagree. If the certain percentage that are in favor of gay marriage wanted equality then there would be no bar to anyone of any gender, preference, number, relation, etc. to being married as long as they are of legal age. This issue is strictly related to gay marriage as is seen in the Betty Little thread.

    JDM, you’ve done well in this thread, kudos!

    HT- “the act of identifying an instance of bigotry is not itself an act of bigotry.”

    But isn’t it bigotry to argue someones opinion is bigotry based on their religious views or discomfort with homosexuality? If a woman has been raped we don’t call her a bigot because she’s uncomfortable around men for the rest of her life. If a person of faith is against the death penalty or alcohol consumption we don’t call them bigots.

    I think we toss this word around a little too freely.

  43. JDM says:

    Dave: “What matters is when you try to deny others the ability to do something because you disagree with who they are or what they believe.”

    I cannot deny legislation. It will take a majority of legislators, and approximately a majority of represented people to do so.

    I am one of many millions. I only hope there are enough of us to deny this legislation to those of you who support it.

    You are on the side that wants to deny the heterosexual community the currently defined institution of marriage. Did you ever think of that.

    In your terms, you are discriminating against those who want to keep marriage as it is.

    What we have here is a democratic process with two different views and a means to make laws, change laws, and live together within a society.

    You cannot claim high ground. You can only get out and vote, same as me, and try to persuade others to join you, same as me.

  44. JDM says:

    hermit thrush: “the act of identifying an instance of bigotry is not itself an act of bigotry.”

    Two sides, to this, hermit.

    One who is committed to their opinion that gay marriage is ok, and one who is committed to the opinion that it is very bad to society.

    No room for name calling, here.

    You can put forth your opinion, and so can I.

  45. Dave says:

    Bret,

    Of course we do not call people who are against alcohol consumption bigots. But that is not what is going on here.

    “I disapprove of alcohol consumption” – not a problem.

    “People who are gay, or black, or female, should not be allowed to consume alcohol” – problem.

    Is the difference really not clear?

    JDM is expressing the latter. He isn’t just saying, “I disapprove of gays”, he is saying “People who are gay should not be allowed to marry.”

    Disagreeing with someone, or holding an opposite opinion, is not bigotry. No one has suggested it is. As far as I can see, almost everyone has bent over backwards to say that JDB can have whatever opinion of gays he wants to have.

    It is when he suggests that we discriminate against gays that a line gets crossed. Some might call it bigotry, some discrimination, whatever…

  46. Dave says:

    “You are on the side that wants to deny the heterosexual community the currently defined institution of marriage. Did you ever think of that.”

    The hetero community, of which I am a part, is not being denied anything here. I got married before the bill, and I can get married after this bill. Nothing will have changed for me, what-so-ever.

    And nothing will have changed for you, either.

  47. hermit thrush says:

    ok jdm, i get that you’re just going to evade evade evade when it comes to this contradiction you’ve gotten yourself into. you claim you don’t discriminate based on behavior, but that’s evidently not true. we can move on.

    but actually, i’ll even try to give you a little help, as this will get at a more important issue anyway.

    long ago, “to discriminate” just meant to recognize and understand the differences between different things or people. and of course the word still has that meaning, but in the present discussion it’s being used in a second, more modern, sense, which means to treat different groups of people differently without a legitimate reason to do so. and of course what is or isn’t legitimate will always be up in the air, but that’s why we have these discussions!

    i bring this up because, contrary to what i’ve claimed, i’m 100% sure you feel that denying marriage to gays does not constitute actual discrimination, because there are good and legitimate reasons for doing so. and you’ve even mentioned one of them, which is that you think gay marriage would be bad for society.

    now, you’ve stated that your aim in this discussion thread is to bring people around to your point of view. you want people to also think that gay marriage would be bad for society. but just asserting that over and over isn’t very helpful or persuasive.

    so, why is gay marriage bad for society? why isn’t it discrimination to bar gays from marriage?

  48. Jim Bullard says:

    IMO Organized religions should not be getting taxpayer dollars period. If your religion moves you to provide some public service it should move its members to pay for what they do with their own money.

    Remove taxpayer dollars from K of C and all other religions organizations and then, by all means, they will be free to deny service to whomever they wish but expecting to accept money from government while ignoring government rules is unacceptable.

  49. PNElba says:

    I was wondering how long before the ‘if we allow gay marriage, we will allow marriage to animals etc.’ to be brought up, if only by implication.

  50. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I love this bit:
    “You don’t see two male dogs sleeping in the same dog house together,” he said

    I don’t know why people bring up the idea that animals aren’t gay because anyone who has been around a barnyard for any length of time knows that all kinds of animals exhibit same sex tendencies. Of course I’m inferring that he means the dogs are doing something more than just sleeping.

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