Sunday, June 19, 2011

Same Sex Marriage and Legal Problems

The legalization of same-sex marriage in New York state could have troubling consequences for people of faith that extend far beyond the redefinition of marriage, an archdiocesan expert on legal matters said.

Edward Mechmann, assistant director of the archdiocesan Family Life/Respect Life Office, New York, said that the “real danger” of legalizing same-sex marriage is the effect it would have religious freedom and religious institutions.

Mechmann said it is essential for citizens to be made aware of the consequences of recognizing same-sex marriage. …If marriage between persons of the same sex becomes legal, the Catholic Church and other religious entities and groups that do not recognize those unions as marriages could be subject to sanctions. For example, they could be denied government contracts and licenses to operate charitable agencies.

“Dozens” of laws exist on the state and local level that make distinctions based on marital status. None of those laws were enacted with the expectation that marriage would be redefined, and “all of them will be used against us,” he said.

He also said that individual professionals could face sanctions. “If you are a marriage counselor and you decide you don’t want to treat same-sex couples, you could be found guilty of discrimination or unprofessional conduct,” Mechmann said. “You could be disciplined, or lose your license.”

Licensed day-care providers could be subject to the same sanctions, he added, and so could anyone in any circumstance “where we would distinguish between a same-sex and a married couple in providing services.”

Catholic schools and other faith-based educational institutions could be affected. Religious groups would be restricted by new regulations in hiring. Mechmann noted that the Catholic Church and other religious groups are protected by the “ministerial exemption,” which allows them to hire employees in accord with the group’s religious mission and values. If same-sex marriage becomes legal, there will no longer be an exemption for non-ministerial positions such as secretarial workers, mailroom staff and cafeteria personnel, Mechmann said. Religious groups will not be able to decline to hire persons in same-sex marriages, and will have to provide them with the same benefits given to heterosexual spouses.

This would put the church or religious group in the position of denying its beliefs and acknowledging that same-sex marriage is equivalent to traditional marriage between a man and a woman
Written for Catholic New York (archdiocesan weekly) By CLAUDIA McDONNELL

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