ALBANY, N.Y. – New York state’s Catholic bishops called the state Legislature’s effort to legalize same-sex marriage “ill-advised” and said it “would radically change the timeless institution of marriage.”
“As pastors of citizens from every corner of our great state, we stand unified in our strong opposition to such a drastic measure,” the bishops said in a statement released June 3 by the New York State Catholic Conference in Albany. The conference is the bishops’ public policy arm.
The state Assembly passed the measure allowing same-sex marriage in May. As of June 4, with just two weeks left in the legislative session, the state Senate had not acted on the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith was quoted in the news media as saying he wanted to be sure he had the 32 votes needed for its passage before bringing it to the floor. Gov. David Paterson said he would sign it into law if the measure reaches his desk. That would make New York the seventh state to legalize gay marriage.
On June 3 New Hampshire became the sixth state. Gov. John Lynch signed the measure into law right after lawmakers passed it. The law will take effect Jan. 1.
The New York bishops said they were praying their state’s senators would “stand firm in opposition to this ill-advised legislation,” and called on Catholics and all New Yorkers to contact their senators and ask them to oppose it.
The bishops said their opposition to same-sex marriage is “based not only on Catholic teaching regarding human sexuality and the sacrament of marriage” but also “on reason, sound public policy, and plain common sense.” Their stand is in no way “a condemnation of homosexual people,” they said.
“Throughout history, different cultures have had different customs regarding marriage. But the one constant has been the conviction that marriage is the union of a man and a woman in an enduring bond, ordered for the procreation and stable rearing of children,” they said.
“Regrettably, the state Assembly has voted to redefine what nature and our common heritage long ago defined for us,” they added.
Reiterating points made in their 2008 statement opposing same-sex marriage, the bishops said that “the state has a compelling legal interest in promoting marriage between men and women in order to create stable families and provide for the safety, health and well-being of children.”
“The state has no such compelling legal interest in recognizing a relationship between two people of the same sex,” they said.
“If there are injustices against those in relationships other than marriage, those injustices can certainly be reformed and corrected in a way other than by drastically redefining marriage,” the bishops said.
Repeating another point from the earlier statement, they also said their stand on traditional marriage “must not be misconstrued to be in any way a condemnation of homosexual people or an attack on their human dignity.”
“Our church teaches, and we affirm, that we must treat our homosexual sisters and brothers with dignity and love, as we would all God’s children,” they said, pointing out that the Catechism of the Catholic Church “warns that any form of prejudice or hatred – ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ – against homosexual people should be avoided.”
The bishops’ statement was signed by: Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Bishops Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, Edward U. Kmiec of Buffalo, Matthew H. Clark of Rochester, William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre and Robert J. Cunningham of Syracuse; and Father Terry R. LaValley, diocesan administrator of Ogdensburg.