Saturday, June 18, 2011

If New York Senator Greg Ball Lived In 1967

      The following is a fictional representation of Senator Ball’s position on interracial marriage in 1967. In that year (before the Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia), the State of Maryland legislatively repealed its anti-miscegenation law. Though I would have liked to put this fictional story in New York, that State thankfully never enacted such laws.

It has been an exciting week here at the state capitol in Annapolis. From the lifting of the ban on interracial marriage, to the issues of tax hikes, this legislative session appears to be one which will go down in the history books. With only two days left in the legislative session, Governor Agnew and Assembly are pushing the Senate to take up the interracial marriage bill and to legalize such marriages in this state. But many Senators are concerned, and the majority party has been meeting in secret session to determine whether the bill should come up for a vote.
One of these Senators, Greg Ball, Republican of Baltimore, has been an outspoken advocate for certain religious exemptions that he says must be put in the bill. Though he styles himself  an outspoken advocate for African American Rights, even saying that he took the "unpopular opinion that the integration of African Americans in the military was a good idea", he is concerned about how religious organizations who oppose the lifting of the anti-miscegenation law will be impacted.  
Specifically he is worried that,
1.       Religiously affiliated organizations – such as charities, adoption agencies, etc. – that receive state funding for their work, will lose this funding if they refuse to serve (for religious reasons) an interracial couple.
2.       That non-profit organizations will lose their tax exempt status if an interracial couple wants to rent space from a non-profit religious institution (whose non-profit status is not based upon religious reasons) and they refuse to do so.
3.       That individual businesses that may have religious reasons for not wanting to participate in an interracial wedding – such as wedding photographers or cake decorators – would be able to be sued for racial discrimination.
4.       That individuals in government, who would have to issue wedding licenses to interracial couples etc, would be fired if they refused to do so based upon their religious beliefs.
Senator Ball states that only if these issues are cleared up will he vote in favor of the bill; but critics are decrying these proposed exemptions. To them, African Americans  and religious organizations are already protected both under the states vigorous anti-discrimination law as well as the first Amendment, and that passage of the bill with these new exemptions would be one step forward but two steps back for interracial couples.
Governor Agnew has agreed to discuss Senator Balls concerns, and come to an agreement with the majority party, stating that there will most likely be a vote by Monday on the bill. 

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