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.