Saturday, August 20, 2011

New York's Vague Marriage Licenses Will Lead To Animal Marriages

The town clerk of Ledyard New York, Rose Marie Belforti, has finally responded to the controversy over her recent decision to not sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples. In an exclusive interview with Focus On The Family's Citizen Link, Ms. Belforti talks about her recent decision.

Though she claims in her Citizen Link interview that "if (reporters) want to talk to me over the phone, I would love to do that", it must be remembered that this is the same woman who, when contacted by the New York paper the Auburn Citizen for comment on her decision, stated "that's not your business" before rudely hanging up the phone. Thus, everything that she says must be taken with a grain of salt; for if you only want to be interviewed by a '"friendly" organization, it seems as though you don't want to answer the hard questions. 

When asked by Citizen Link why she decided to not issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, she stated that, "I am a Christian. God is the final word. He is the Truth, and I believe what the Bible says. When I considered this, God was there with me and I really knew inside, without waver, that this is not right." Though this may seem to be a legitimate reason for her refusal to administer "religious" marriage licences (if those even existed), it raises some questions about the role of religious beliefs in the civil realm, and her role as a civil - not religious - marriage commissioner   

If she truly "believes what the Bible says" why has she not refused to issue marriage licenses to couples who are not Christian, who have been previously divorced, or who are mixed religions? According to the Bible, which she admits guides her life, administering all of these civil ceremonies would be causing her to go against what God teaches, and thus causing her to sin. Her lack of consistancy regarding this issue shows that this is not about any sort of "religious consistancy", but instead shows that her refusal actually has roots in prejudice against gay and lesbian people - couched in religious beliefs. 

But, she claims that she is far from prejudiced, because she actually has "friends who are gay". Isn't it interesting that anytime an individual, no matter whether it is anti-gay, anti-African American, anti-Hispanic, or anti- anyone else, claim that they "have friends who are ____" before they then disparage an entire community. Could this statement, always made by those who feel very negatively about a certain group, be used to make their racism/homophobia seem more palatable? Could it be that they know that what they are doing is wrong, yet they want to make sure that no one else catches on to it? 

In the end of the interview, when asked by Citizen Link about what her feelings are regarding homosexuality, Rose Marie Belforti launches into her more secular reason for refusing to administer marriage licenses to same-sex couples. According to her, gay and lesbians should not be married, because the wording on the marriage certificate (aka. allowance of the word "spouse") will make it difficult for future generations to trace their genealogy.

Lastly, she asserts that it seems as though this issue is not about marriage at all, but something more sinister, stating, 
I don’t understand why we have to change the form. I’m worried there’s another agenda involved here other than just allowing same-sex couples to be married. We know what a bride is, we know what a groom is—but if we choose to be a “spouse,” does that even limit (marriage) to a human being? Do you know what I’m saying?
Yes, Ms. Belforti, I think that the LGBT community gets exactly what you are saying.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Catholic Charities Loses Same-Sex Adoption Lawsuit

An Illinois judge Thursday reached a verdict in a lawsuit brought by Catholic Charities against the state of Illinois regarding adoption services for same-sex couples in civil unions. When Illinois legalized civil unions on June 1 of this year, the Illinois State Department of Children and Family Services informed the adoption and foster care agency, Catholic Charities, that it would not renew its contract, citing the organizations refusal to put children in same-sex households. 

Catholic Charities sued the state, asserting that this loss of over $30 million dollars in state funding, would effectively force the agency to shut down its adoption and foster care services. 

The crux of the lawsuit, as addressed by Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Schmidt, was whether the State of Illinois had the legal right to void its annual contract with Catholic Charities. Catholic Charities, represented by the Thomas More Society - a legal group based out of Chicago - argued that because they had been providing these services for over forty years, and depended upon state funding to do so, they had a " protected property interest" 

Though Catholic Charities argument may seem persuasive to some, Judge Schmidt was not convinced, stating that Catholic Charities does not have a right to a contract with the government, and that "Plaintiffs are not required by the state to perform these useful and beneficial services". In fact, Judge Schmidt wrote, "The Plaintiffs' contract with the State, which is renewable annually, is a desire of the Plaintiffs to perform their mission as directed by their religious beliefs. The fact that the Plaintiffs have contracted with the State to provide foster care and adoption services for over forty years does not vest the Plaintiffs with a protected property interest."

Ben Wolf, the Associate Legal Director 0f the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, issued a statement praising the ruling, saying that,
Today's decision by Judge Schmidt is a good decision for the children under the care of DCFS in Illinois.    The primary goal in foster care and adoptive services must be the best interest of the children in need of loving, secure homes.    The State has a responsibility and constitutional obligation to assure that all decisions about foster and permanent homes for children are made in the best interest of the child – not other factors including the religious views of the contractual provider.   Lesbians and gay men across Illinois daily provide secure, good homes for foster and adoptive children – and have done so for many years.   These loving parents must be allowed to participate fully and equally in any program performing the state's function of licensing and placing children with foster or adoptive parents.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Only Nine Couples Take Advantage Of Rhode Island Civil Unions

On July 2nd of this year, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee signed a bill which legalized civil unions in the Ocean State. Though Governor Chafee recognized that the bill was "imperfect" (as it did not give full marriage rights to gays and lesbians) he believed that it was a step forward and was a bill that brought "tangible benefits to thousands of Rhode Islanders". But, new data from the Rhode Island government, collected by the Associated Pres,s shows that during the first month of legal civil unions, only nine couples took advantage of the new law. 

The civil unions legislation was passed with overwhelming majorities in the state House and Senate, yet with great opposition from organizations on both sides of the same-sex union debate.Conservative religious organizations, such as the Catholic Conference, opposed the bill because it was a recognition of same-sex relationships and might lead to the "redefinition of marriage".  Marriage Equality Rhode Island's Martha Holt also decried the civil unions bill, stating, 
Civil unions are unacceptable because they marginalize gay and lesbian couples in very significant ways. The General Assembly will essentially be legalizing a two-class system that subjects thousands of Rhode Island same-sex couples to discrimination. We cannot support legislation that establishes a second class of citizens in Rhode Island.
That there has been only nine couples who have had a civil unions ceremony in the past month is no surprise to Marriage Equality Rhode Island spokesperson Dawn Euer,
If it had been marriage people would have been lining up...People are holding out for marriage. They want true equality, not a made-up, bureaucratic, second-class status."
Religious organizations, to no ones surprise, are stating the exact opposite of MERI's analysis. Instead of same sex couples holding out for marriage equality, NOM Rhode Island asserts that this shows that the push for marriage rights is only about "redefining marriage" and not about any sort of legal and financial protections for same-sex couples. In an interview with Focus On The Family's Citizen Link, NOM RI Executive Director Chris Plante stated that “Same-sex marriage advocates will seek to redefine marriage again in January. I’m not sure what they’ll be asking for this time. They can’t say, ‘We need this right or benefit or protection,’ because they've got it.”
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