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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New York State

2012-SEP/OCT: New York state's Marriage
Equality law: One year later. Part 3:
Retaliation against GOP Senators. SSM discrimination

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The acronym LGBT refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,
and transsexual communities. SSM refers to same-sex marriage.

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This topic continues from a previous essay

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2012-SEP: Program of retaliation against Republican senators who supported marriage equality in 2011:

Primary day in New York State was held on SEP-13. A flood of attack ads targeted Republican candidates for the NY Senate who voted for marriage equality in mid-2011. There were four of them who, along with all but one Democratic Senator, voted to bring marriage equality to New York State. Of the three who sought re-election on the Republican ticket:

  • Senator Roy McDonald failed his bid for nomination.
  • Senator Stephen Saland was re-nominated.
  • Senator Mark Grisanti was re-nominated.

Those supporting marriage equality were hoping that all three would be re-nominated as candidates. They had been claiming that no Republican who voted for same-sex marriage had ever been defeated because of her/his vote. However, with support for marriage equality currently at slightly under 30% among Republicans nationally, and the large sums of money invested in attacking the three Senators, it was inevitable that at least one would eventually lose their bid at renomination. Anti-marriage groups such as the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) are very pleased because the results in New York State might cause other Republican lawmakers to fear voting for marriage equality in the future. 1

One ad attacks New York City Councilmember Eric Ulrich who is running for State senate. His "crimes" were:

  • Having dinner with "an openly gay Democratic Councilman and his husband,"
  • Hiring a chief of staff who is gay, and
  • Ocasionally supporting New York City council bills by Speaker Christine Quinn who is openly lesbian. 2

Apparently, lawmakers must not eat with gays, must not work with gays, and must automatically vote against any proposed legislation sponsored by gays, regardless of the merits of those bills.

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2012-SEP/OCT: Two human rights complaints filed:

During September, a gay couple in New York City filed a lawsuit against a restaurant. They allege that the restaurant manager cancelled their wedding rehersal dinner and refused to cater their wedding saying that he did not want any "gay parties." The restaurant disputes the claim.

A couple from upstate New York approached the owners of Liberty Ridge Farm near Albany. The farm apparently rents its facilities out to the general public for wedding services. Owners Robert and Cynthia Gifford allegedly refused to rent the farm as a wedding venue because of their values and religious background. The loving, committed couple who wanted to be married there consists of two women.

On OCT-11, the engaged couple from Albany, Melisa Erwin and Jennie McCarthy, filed a complaint with the state Division of Human Rights. Actually, the complaint is probably not really 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 opposed to 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."

We cannot understand their belief. 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 discriminate against others.

Presumably, the "rights being violated" are considered by the owners to be their religious freedoms. But 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 -- typically women and sexual minorities -- because of the believer's religious beliefs. The numbers of conflicts over this new definition of religious freedom is now rapidly growing in the U.S.

There is aready a "freedom to discriminate" clause built into the law that legalized SSM in the state. It allows religious institutions to refuse to marry same-sex couples if they wish. However, as Susan Sommer, senior counsel at Lambda Legal -- a group promoting marriage equality -- said, it is well established that any business that serves the public violates the state's human rights law if the business discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. 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." 3

To which one might add a black couple, an immigrant couple, a Jewish couple, an inter-faith couple, an inter-racial couple, etc.

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References used:

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

  1. Jonathan Allen, "NY state senator loses election after backing gay marriage," Reuters, 2012-SEP-24, at:
  2. Dan Rafter, "Anti-Gay Mailers Hit New York in Days Leading Up to Primary," Human Rights Campaign, 2012-SEP-11, at:
  3. Michael Hill, "Complaint: NY wedding site banned same-sex couple," Associated Press, 2012-OCT-22, at:

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Site navigation:

 Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > NY > here

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Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-JUL-24
Latest update: 2012-OCT-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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