Does NY’s New Gay Marriage Law Protect Those Who Oppose Same-Sex Unions?
New York’s same-sex marriage debate came to a close last Friday evening when the state Senate voted to allow homosexuals to wed. But, is the debate truly over? Already, new questions are arising over the rights of individuals and businesses to refuse serving or working for gay couples. From wedding photographers opposed to shooting a same-sex wedding to religious non-profits who may wish to decline health care coverage to gay partners, some are fearful that protections simply don’t go far enough.
WNYC quotes Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, who claims that organizations and individuals are not adequately protected:
“There are profound consequences for re-defining marriage. And this religious liberty exemption in my view does relatively little or nothing to protect such organizations and individuals.”
Rabbi Avi Shafran of the Jewish organization Agudath Israel, also sees potential complications for his faith-based group. Shafran wonders what will happen if the organization denies same-sex employees health care benefits for their partners. He says:
“If we were to stand on our religious principles, which we would do, and not extend benefits because we don’t recognize the union as a marriage, then the state could say that funds … would be denied us because we are not subscribing to what the state considers to be proper marriages.”
According to Townhall.com, via the Baptist Press, there are some protections that are not included in the new law. A husband and wife photography team, for instance, would not be protected if the couple refused to take pictures at a gay wedding. Additionally, Alliance Defense Fund attorney Austin R. Nimrocks claims that there is nothing that can be done to prevent teaching same-sex marriage in public schools — something some opponents of the new law will surely have an opinion on. Nimrocks says:
“This language does not cover everything it needs to cover and everybody that needs to be covered. In terms of what it purports to cover, it remains to be seen whether it will be interpreted in the way that many legislators who enacted it are promising it will be. There are significant holes in this religious liberty language.
It does not protect individuals. It does not protect private business owners. It does not protect, for example, a bed and breakfast owner who is using their own private personal property in the type of intimate setting that a bed and breakfast is. It does not protect licensed professionals. For example, it does not protect counselors. It also does not protect lawyers — you may have a family law attorney who does not want to do a same-sex divorce because of their deeply held religious beliefs.”
The Boston Globe recently delved into the discussion, highlighting some interviews with anxious service providers. Bill Banuchi of Newburgh, N.Y., a provider of Christian marriage and family counseling seminars and services through his Marriage and Family Savers Institute, shared his worries over the new marriage law.
Banuchi fears that he will not be protected under the religious exemption portion of the bill due to the fact that he is a tax-exempt, non-profit educational charity:
“We have certain principles and ethical guidelines we’d have to compromise. We would be in violation of the law and open to being sued for discrimination, and we could lose our tax-exempt status if we refused to counsel couples according to their value system. Our value system is that the only authentic marriage is between a male and a female.”
Others dismiss these fears saying that current laws already prevent businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation. Still, there are a variety of questions surrounding how the new law will impact education, non-profits and individual businesses and entrepreneurs.
With one side viewing any and all refusals to serve homosexuals as discriminatory and the other side seeing the withholding of service as the result of a faith-based or personal view, the battle over individual rights is sure to loom.
What do you think?
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