Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Connecticut Marriage Equality Opponents Want to Go Back To The Future | Lez Get Real

Connecticut Marriage Equality Opponents Want to Go Back To The Future | Lez Get Real

Currently same sex marriage is legal in four US states; Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa.

While the United States constitution absolutely protects religious liberties and no one can force any religious organization to recognize any marriage they don’t want to recognize, six months into legalized same-sex marriage in Connecticut, some in that state are looking at opening a new and disturbing front in their contentious battle against gay rights by demanding Connecticut lawmakers create exemptions to the Connecticut’s anti-discrimination laws based on religious grounds.

The Connecticut Senate is scheduled to vote today on legislation codifying last year’s Connecticut Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. The legislation was amended by the Senate Judiciary Committee to specify churches could not be forced to host gay weddings. But the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport’s Web site is urging visitors to oppose the current bill as “an attack on our religious liberty,” and anti-marriage equality proponents want Connecticut to provide “full conscience protection” to anyone, such as a caterer, florist or photographer, who says they object to same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

This past weekend, the Roman Catholic Church, teamed up the Family Institute of Connecticut and financed by the Knights of Columbus, they launched a campaign that included TV commercials, robo-calls, newspaper ads and priests at Catholic masses in the state reading messages from local bishops messages from the pulpit to make this happen.

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental right that has been inscribed in our federal constitution forever,” said attorney John Droney, who is providing legal advice to the Knights of Columbus. “It doesn’t suddenly get put on the shelf because of this new, emerging right.” Droney said the knights are simply concerned about lawsuits from “activists” should the religious organization deny a request to host a same-sex wedding in one of its halls.

However, Connecticut Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, a judiciary committee co-chairman, said what the anti-marriage equality people are ask for goes far deeper and their advertising has been “riddled with misinformation.” McDonald pointed to the knights and Family Institute ad claiming schools will be forced to teach gay marriage and parents will have no choice in the matter, even though the current Connecticut’s education statutes specifies that students, at the written request of a parent or guardian, are not be required by local or regional boards of education to participate in “family life education programs.” He also noted schools in Connecticut are locally controlled and any curriculum changes must be approved by local schools boards and that those changes involve public input and often involve votes.

McDonald also noted a far more insidious side to the Knights of Columbus and Family Institute demands… “Could Christian caterers say, ‘I refuse to cater a Jewish bar mitzvah because I don’t believe in Judaism’? Once you hold yourself out to the public to provide goods or services to the public at large, you cannot discriminate,” McDonald said. “That has nothing to do with marriage. It has everything to do with discrimination law in place in Connecticut since 1991. You can’t discriminate against anybody based on race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”

“We have to be careful we don’t carve out an exception so large it undermines the bill itself,” said Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven. “There’s a danger if you provide the kind of an exception that anyone could use, regardless of whether it’s based on religion or not.”

Anne Stanback, head of the pro- marriage equality group Love Makes a Family, said it is difficult to see how allowing a business to turn away gay patrons is anything but disrespectful. “How humiliating for a gay couple or gay individual to walk into a crowded florist and be told, ‘We don’t serve your kind here,’ ” she said. “That’s basically what it is.”

In 1970, Bob Jones University, a Christian university in South Carolina, believed interracial dating and marriage was contrary to its faith, and sued when the IRS revoked their tax-exempt status when that agency prohibited the granting tax-exempt status to private schools that practiced racial discrimination. In that case the United States Supreme Court upheld the IRS’s decision by an 8-1 vote saying, the government has an “overriding, fundamental interest in eradicating discrimination”. The Justices said the IRS policy was based on neutral, secular bases, and the decision did not prevent discriminatory schools from operating. This case clearly established that religious belief couldn’t be used as an excuse for engaging discrimination.

You’d think that as an attorney of some considerable experience, Mr. Droney might know about that case

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