Same-sex debate in New York

The New York Times reports that faith groups are campaigning to block gay marriage in the state of New York:

Evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Jewish leaders, determined to head off momentum for same-sex marriage in Albany, say they are mobilizing an extensive campaign to block legislation that would make New York the sixth state to allow gay men and lesbians to wed.

“Our pastors are fired up by the governor’s assault on marriage,” said the Rev. Jason J. McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a lobbying group that represents evangelical churches in the state. “We’re already in gear.”

Opponents of same-sex marriage have already financed a wave of 500,000 automated calls urging voters to contact undecided lawmakers. And the traditional religious coalition that has fought same-sex marriage in previous legislative sessions now counts among its members Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, who played only a muted role the last time the issue was debated, in 2009, when he had just been appointed to lead the Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

It's a 1,000-word news story by religion writer Paul Vitello that sticks to the facts, gives relevant background and -- it seems to me -- treats opponents and supporters of same-sex marriage fairly.

I did find myself wishing for more specifics and more details on certain elements of the story. The relatively short length of the piece probably contributed to some of the missing information. But in a perfect world, a story leading with a reference to New York possibly becoming the sixth state to do something would have mentioned the five that already have.

Moreover, "evangelical" has become such a vague, catch-all term that I believe more precision was needed to explain exactly what churches make up New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. Similarly, it would be nice to know Rev. McGuire's denominational affiliation. The story later quotes a state senator who is a Pentecostal and the vice chairman of a Missionary Baptist convention. Are they part of the evangelical group?

The story provides this background on religious objections to same-sex marriage:

Religious opponents of same-sex marriage, meanwhile, have already begun using church bulletins, diocesan newspapers and sermons from the pulpit to encourage their followers to contact legislators and let them know how they feel. They make a two-tiered argument. First, they cite biblical injunctions against homosexuality. Second, they warn that social services, like foster care and adoption, provided by religiously sponsored charities could be endangered by the legalization of same-sex marriage. They point to Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., where Catholic Charities stopped participating in adoption services rather than face a mandate to place children in homes without regard to the sexual orientation of the couple.

Nathan Diament, a lobbyist for the Orthodox Union, the largest association of Orthodox Jewish congregations in the country, said many Orthodox rabbis had contacted him for information about this year’s marriage bill. “Aside from the moral issues, their major concern is religious liberty,” he said.

But State Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat who has co-sponsored the same-sex marriage bill in past years, said civil liability for violating discrimination laws was already a fact of life. As for adoption, which is already legal for same-sex couples in New York, she said, “My guess is that most same-sex couples skip over the Catholic adoption services in the Yellow Pages.”

Concerning the state senator's argument, my guess is that it wouldn't take many same-sex couples seeking an adoption through a Catholic agency to create a major issue. In fact, it might take just one such couple to launch a significant legal battle. I wonder if an expert might have made that point in the Times story.

But overall, the good old-fashioned journalism evident in this report impressed me. Nice job, New York Times.

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