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Same sex marriage (SSM), civil unions, etc. in Minnesota

Part 11:
2013-MAY: Visitors from New York state warn about
loss of religious freedom if SSMs legalized in MN.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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"SSM" is an acronym for Same Sex Marriage.
"LGBT" is an acronym for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transsexuals.
"DFL" is an acronym referring to the Democratic party in Minnesota.

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2013-MAY-06: Minnesota for Marriage held a news conference:

Minnesota for Marriage is the main group in the state that opposes access to marriage by same-sex couples. Even though they expected that the Minnesota House would not pass the SSM bill, they held a news conference to emphasize their belief that individual religious liberties would be threatened if SSMs ever became legalized in the state.

Several individuals spoke at the conference. Some were from New York state which had legalized SSM in mid-2011. They described some of the problems that they had encountered"

  • One was Clerk Laura Fotusky, 56. a Republican, who had been twice elected as town clerk in Barker, NY. This town is located about 40 miles South of Syracuse in central New York state. She felt that she could not personally be involved in the marriage of any same-sex couple. She composed a letter of resignation, effective on 2001-JUL-21, three days before the same-sex marriage law took effect in that state.

    There were a total of only two clerks in the state who felt unable to handle same-sex marriages. The other clerk was able to reach an accommodation among their coworkers so that no same-sex couple seeking a marriage license would be inconvenienced or rejected. To place this in perspective, New York has 62 cities and 932 towns. Thus, the problem existed in only 0.2% of the administrative divisions in the state.

At the time, Fotusky wrote:

    "The Bible clearly teaches that God created marriage between male and female as a divine gift that preserves families and cultures. Since I love and follow Him, I cannot put my signature on something that is against God. ..." 8

She also wrote:

    "There was no protection provided in the legislation for Town Clerks who are unable to sign these marriage licenses due to personal religious convictions, even though our US Constitution supports freedom of religion." 9

Ms Fotusky told the Politico web site:

    "I would be compromising my moral conscience by participating in licensing [the marriage of] same-sex couples. I had to choose between my job and my God." 8

At the time, Governor Andrew Cuomo responded to her resignation during an interview:

    "The law is the law. When you enforce the laws of the state, you don't get to pick and choose which laws. You don't get to say, 'I like this law and I'll enforce this law', or 'I don't like this law and I won't enforce this law' -- you can't do that. So if you can't enforce the law, then you shouldn't be in that position."

He also said:

    "I understand. We've had this debate. We've talked about it at length for many, many years. We had a very heated discussion in Albany before the law was passed. I understand the opposition, and I understand both sides of the argument. ... And I understand people who have religious beliefs and their opposition based on religious beliefs. I'm the governor of the state, and this is a legal matter. It's a legal question. To me, it's a question of equality and anti-discrimination. From a legal point of view, I believe this is exactly right and I'm comfortable with it, and that's why I supported it and I advocated [in its favor].

    "I understand people who say, I have religious beliefs and my religious beliefs trump my legal obligations. I understand that, and that's why the person is resigning. If you're saying you're going to act through your religious beliefs rather than what is the law of the state, then you can't operate in a position where you're supposed to be enforcing the laws, right? Because the laws would have to be paramount, and would have to be paramount to your religious beliefs. You can't have a system in this state where people enforce [only] the laws that their religions say are OK to enforce, right?" 9

Webmaster's note: Freedom of religion has historically meant the freedom to hold various religious beliefs, to associate freely with other believers, to assemble together to attend religious services, to engage, within reasonable limits, in their faith group's religious practices, to change one's religion at any time, etc. However, the term is gradually changing its meaning. It is increasingly being used to refer to the religious freedom to discriminate against others -- generally women and sexual minorities. Among the latter meaning of the term, it is most commonly used to victimize lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons (LGBTs).

At the press conference in Minnesota, Fotusky said:

"I could not sign the marriage licenses and congratulate the couples, since I believe that marriage was designed and defined by God as between a man and a woman."

  • A second visitor from New York state was Cynthia Gifford from Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, NY near Albany. She and her husband Robert rent their facilities to the general public for celebrations, company meetings, etc. They allegedly refused to rent the farm as a wedding venue to two engaged women because of their discriminatory religious values.

    On 2011-OCT-11, the engaged couple, Melisa Erwin and Jennie McCarthy, filed a complaint with the New York state Division of Human Rights. Actually, the complaint is probably not directly related to SSM. If the lesbian couple wanted to celebrate their son's Bar Mitzva or their daughter's 16th birthday, they would have probably been rejected as well.

    The couple decided to get married elsewhere. However Jennie McCarthy said that they filed the complaint because:

    "We just want to know that the [farm owners'] policy is being changed to fit the laws so this doesn't happen to anyone else."

    Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms -- the main state group that unsuccessfully opposed marriage equality -- said that the farm owners:

    "... still have children at home and they feel that their rights are being violated and they're being discriminated against because of their position on the issue of gay marriage."

    Hypothetically, the owners could also believe that interracial marriages should not be allowed, and still allow such a marriage to take place. They could believe that an inter-faith marriage is an abomination, and still allow one to occur on their property. It is not so much the owners' beliefs but their desire to act on their beliefs in a way that denigrates and discriminates against others.

    At the Minnesota press conference, Cynthia Gifford said:

    "We have to choose between our religious beliefs, our morals and ethics that we've taught our two children, and our family income. Do we lose all that we've worked for because legislation has changed a definition that is thousands of years old?"

    They don't seem to have lost all that they have worked for. As of 2013-MAY, They still advertise "Barn weddings with country charm near Albany, Saratoga, Clifton Park and Capital Region of Upstate NY;" they still have a two person wedding planning team; they had a display at the Hall of Springs wedding show. 11

There have been a few other conservative Christians across the U.S. who have run afoul of state anti-discrimination laws because they want to discriminate against same-sex couples. Many of them have been hauled up before state human rights tribunals and found guilty. However, many -- perhaps most -- have observed a drastic increase in business as other conservative heterosexual Christians have sought them out preferentially because they have a proven track record of discriminating against the LGBT community.

It appears that the rights being violated by the Giffords are the same as for Clerk Laura Fotusky. It is their religious freedoms. Again it is not under the old definition of religious freedom in which their religious beliefs are being restricted. Religious freedoms have been long guaranteed in the U.S. by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Rather it is the new definition of religious freedom, which is the freedom of a believer to restrict, oppress, denigrate, and discriminate against others.

In 2011, Susan Sommer, senior counsel at Lambda Legal -- a group promoting marriage equality -- said that any business that serves the public violates New York state's human rights law if the business discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. Commenting on the Gifford case, she said:

"If it opens its venue for weddings by the general public, it can't then shut its doors on a same-sex couple." 10

To which one might add a black couple because of their race, an immigrant couple because of their land of origin, a Jewish couple because of their religion, an inter-faith couple because of their mixed religions, an inter-racial couple because of their mixed races, etc.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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Site navigation:

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Doug Belden, "Same-sex marriage could add $45M to Minnesota's economy, report says." Pioneer Press, 2013-APR-15, at: http://www.twincities.com/
  2. Doug Grow, "Gay-marriage supporters making their big push at Capitol," MinnPost, 2013-APR-18, at: http://www.minnpost.com/
  3. Megan Boldt, Minnesota House gay marriage showdown is Thursday," Pioneer Press, 2013-MAY-07, at: http://www.twincities.com/
  4. Baird Helgeson, "Minnesota House to vote on same-sex marriage proposal Thursday," Star Tribune, 2013-MAY-07, at: http://www.startribune.com/
  5. Emma Margolin, "Gay marriage: Minnesota House set to vote," MSNBC, 2013-MAY-08, at: http://tv.msnbc.com
  6. "HF 1054," Minnesota State Legislature, 2013-MAY-07, at: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/
  7. Text of the House bill HF 1054 is at: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/
  8. Reid Epstein, "N.Y. clerk quits over gay marriage," Politico, 2011-JUL-12, at: http://www.politico.com/
  9. Celest Katz, "Gov. Cuomo On Clerk Quitting Over Gay Marriage Licenses: Obey The Law, Or Take A Hike," NY Daily News blog, 2011-JUL-12, at: http://www.nydailynews.com/
  10. Michael Hill, "Complaint: NY wedding site banned same-sex couple," Associated Press, 2012-OCT-22, at: http://www.KNOE.com/
  11. "Venues & Ceremonies," Liberty Ridge Farm, 2012, at: http://libertyridgefarmny.com/

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Copyright © 2013, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2013-MAY-22
Latest update: 2013-MAY-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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