New York Marriage Logjam Broken, Leader Says Vote to Be Held Tonight

Posted by Chris Geidner
June 24, 2011 5:10 PM |

[FURTHER UPDATE: MARRIAGE BILL PASSED: Read "A Singular Sensation," Metro Weekly's full report on tonight's passage of New York's marriage equality law and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's late-night bill-signing.]

[NOTE: A new post, "New York Marriage Vote: Tonight" will cover all developments from 7 p.m. Friday, June 24, onward -- as well as providing the New York Senate livestream.]

Less than an hour ago, The New York Times reported that leaders in Albany had reached a compromise on the religious exemption language in the marriage equality bill. There is not yet, however, word that a vote will be held in the Senate. [The vote will be held tonight. See below.] From Nick Confessore and Michael Barbaro's report:

Senate Republicans were still discussing the marriage bill among themselves in a close door meeting .... And it remained unclear whether — and even if — they would permit a vote on the broader legislation. Assembly lawmakers, which approved an earlier version of the same-sex marriage bill last week, would need to approve the new language in a new vote before the full bill could become law.

Emerging from a meeting with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Daniel J. O’Donnell, a Manhattan Democrat who is sponsor of the gay marriage bill in the assembly, said that there was an “agreement in principle” on the new language. He predicted the new language would be adopted on Friday.

Just now, New Yorkers United for Marriage announced their support for the new language. In a statement, the coalition of organizations supporting marriage equality state:

The amended Marriage Equality legislation protects religious liberties without creating any special exceptions that would penalize same-sex couples or treat them unequally.  The legislation strikes an appropriate balance that allows all loving, committed couples to marry while preserving religious freedom.

Confessore noted a "wrinkle" on Twitter: a nonseverability clause added into the bill. In other words, if religious exemptions are challenged and struck down as unconstitutional, then whole marriage equality bill would be void.

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UPDATE @ 5:20 PM: The language was just posted online. Here is the nonseverability clause:

THIS ACT IS TO BE CONSTRUED AS A WHOLE, AND ALL PARTS OF IT ARE TO BE READ AND CONSTRUED TOGETHER. IF ANY PART OF THIS ACT SHALL BE ADJUDGED BY ANY COURT OF COMPETENT JURISDICTION TO BE INVALID, THE REMAINDER OF THIS ACT SHALL BE INVALIDATED.

The main added religious exemption language:

10-B. RELIGIOUS EXCEPTION.

1. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY STATE, LOCAL OR MUNICIPAL LAW, RULE, REGULATION, ORDINANCE, OR OTHER PROVISION OF LAW TO THE CONTRARY, A RELIGIOUS ENTITY AS DEFINED UNDER THE EDUCATION LAW OR SECTION TWO OF THE RELIGIOUS CORPORATIONS LAW, OR A CORPORATION INCORPO RATED UNDER THE BENEVOLENT ORDERS LAW OR DESCRIBED IN THE BENEVOLENT ORDERS LAW BUT FORMED UNDER ANY OTHER LAW OF THIS STATE, OR A NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION OPERATED, SUPERVISED, OR CONTROLLED BY A RELIGIOUS CORPORATION, OR ANY EMPLOYEE THEREOF, BEING MANAGED, DIRECTED, OR SUPERVISED BY OR IN CONJUNCTION WITH A RELIGIOUS CORPORATION, BENEVO LENT ORDER, OR A NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION AS DESCRIBED IN THIS SUBDI VISION, SHALL NOT BE REQUIRED TO PROVIDE SERVICES, ACCOMMODATIONS, ADVANTAGES, FACILITIES, GOODS, OR PRIVILEGES FOR THE SOLEMNIZATION OR CELEBRATION OF A MARRIAGE. ANY SUCH REFUSAL TO PROVIDE SERVICES, ACCOM MODATIONS, ADVANTAGES, FACILITIES, GOODS, OR PRIVILEGES SHALL NOT CREATE ANY CIVIL CLAIM OR CAUSE OF ACTION OR RESULT IN ANY STATE OR LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACTION TO PENALIZE, WITHHOLD BENEFITS, OR DISCRIMINATE AGAINST SUCH RELIGIOUS CORPORATION, BENEVOLENT ORDER, A NOT-FOR-PROFITCORPORATION OPERATED, SUPERVISED, OR CONTROLLED BY A RELIGIOUS CORPO RATION, OR ANY EMPLOYEE THEREOF BEING MANAGED, DIRECTED, OR SUPERVISED BY OR IN CONJUNCTION WITH A RELIGIOUS CORPORATION, BENEVOLENT ORDER, OR A NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION.

2. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY STATE, LOCAL OR MUNICIPAL LAW OR RULE, REGU LATION, ORDINANCE, OR OTHER PROVISION OF LAW TO THE CONTRARY, NOTHING IN THIS ARTICLE SHALL LIMIT OR DIMINISH THE RIGHT, PURSUANT TO SUBDIVISION ELEVEN OF SECTION TWO HUNDRED NINETY-SIX OF THE EXECUTIVE LAW, OF ANY RELIGIOUS OR DENOMINATIONAL INSTITUTION OR ORGANIZATION, OR ANY ORGAN IZATION OPERATED FOR CHARITABLE OR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES, WHICH IS OPER ATED, SUPERVISED OR CONTROLLED BY OR IN CONNECTION WITH A RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION, TO LIMIT EMPLOYMENT OR SALES OR RENTAL OF HOUSING ACCOMMO DATIONS OR ADMISSION TO OR GIVE PREFERENCE TO PERSONS OF THE SAME RELI GION OR DENOMINATION OR FROM TAKING SUCH ACTION AS IS CALCULATED BY SUCH ORGANIZATION TO PROMOTE THE RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES FOR WHICH IT IS ESTAB LISHED OR MAINTAINED.

3. NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL BE DEEMED OR CONSTRUED TO LIMIT THE PROTECTIONS AND EXEMPTIONS OTHERWISE PROVIDED TO RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS UNDER SECTION THREE OF ARTICLE ONE OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK.

A final provision states that state or local governments could not "penalize, withhold benefits or discriminate" against clergy who refuse to perform any marriages.

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UPDATE @ 5:35 PM: Danny Hakim from The New York Times reports that a Republican senator says there will be a vote:

"Senator Alesi on #gaymarriage vote: "its what I was hoping for" and "it'll be tonight"

UPDATE @ 5:40: Hakim gets the confirmation that there will be a vote tonight from Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R).

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