NY GOPer: I’ll Only Vote For Marriage Equality If Churches Are Exempt

June 7, 2011 4:15 a.m.

This post has been corrected.

A key player in New York’s gay marriage debate has indicated that he’s not likely to support a bill unless religious institutions are exempted.

“If you’re going to pass a marriage bill, real religious exemptions and carveouts to protect the Catholic Church and other religious groups need to be included,” state Senator Greg Ball (R) told Celeste Katz of the New York Daily News. “Short of that, I don’t think you’ll see a marriage bill pass.”As the Daily News explains, Ball argues that anti-discrimination provisions in New York state law that would effectively force religious institutions to provide services to same-sex couples, even if they object to same-sex marriage on religious grounds:

New York’s anti-discrimination laws would force religious organizations to either cater to same-sex couples against their teachings or stop providing key services, he and other religious leaders argue.

Otherwise, they say, the church and related organizations could face lawsuits because the law prevents discrimination based on marital status.

Ball told Joseph Spector of LoHud.com that he thinks the state should pass a civil-union bill instead: “I believe we could immediately pass the most comprehensive civil-union bill in the country and at the same time find a way to constitutionally package an initiative and referendum on gay marriage and put it out to the people.”

Ball is one of eight state Senators who, according to a survey last week by Gannett’s Albany Bureau, hasn’t officially staked out a position on a marriage equality bill that’s been introduced in the State Assembly.

The bill would need 32 votes to pass the Republican-controlled state Senate, and it already has 26 Democrats who say they’ll vote for it. Five Republicans and three Democrats are still on the fence.

Several of the other undecided lawmakers did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment. Sen. Shirley Huntley’s (D) office would not comment on the bill.

In 2009, the state Senate, then controlled by Democrats, voted down a similar bill after it passed the State Assembly. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has said he hopes to pass a marriage equality bill before the end of the legislative session on June 20, but he doesn’t want it brought up unless he knows it has the votes.

Ed Note: This post has been corrected from an earlier version, which incorrectly stated the exemptions as being intended to protect religious organizations from performing same-sex marriages against their wishes. That is in fact a scenario from which they’re already protected. The exemptions being sought would protect religious organizations from providing services to same-sex couples against their wishes.

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