NY state senator gets heat for 'taking the Catholic out' of his marriage vote

NY Senator Mark Grisanti CNA US Catholic News 7 1 11 New York state Senator Mark Grisanti

New York state Senator Mark Grisanti ran as a Catholic Republican opponent of same-sex “marriage” in 2010. In June 2011, he became a key vote ensuring its passage, telling a local newspaper: “If I take the Catholic out of me, which is hard to do, then absolutely they should have these rights.”

Richard E. Barnes, Executive Director of the New York Catholic Conference, said Grisanti showed a lack of integrity as a Catholic by “ignoring” the “teachings he knows full well” on the subject of family life.

“Obviously, he's acknowledging that he does understand the Catholic position,” Barnes said to CNA on July 8. Grisanti seemed to be “making the assessment that, while it was 'hard to do,' he has 'taken the Catholic out of him' for the purposes of this vote.”

“I don't think that a public official should ever 'take the Catholic out' of himself or herself, because Catholic positions are meshed perfectly with public policy positions,” said Barnes, who directs public policy advocacy efforts for the New York bishops.

“No person should say that they are a public official and need not live according to the tenets of their faith. And I find it disappointing that he felt he had to do that.”

When Sen. Grisanti cast his vote in favor of legalizing gay “marriage,” he stated that he could not “deny anyone in my district and across New York the same rights I have with my wife.”

But this reasoning contains faulty logic, Barnes said.
“He substitutes the notion of marriage as a relationship between any two people, in the place of the longstanding legal state interest of a man and woman having and raising children in a stable family,” Barnes observed.

Further, “as a lawmaker, Senator Grisanti set aside the analysis of marriage as having a state interest that the courts in New York have always acknowledged that it has.”

“In 'Hernandez v. Robles,' the New York Court of Appeals – our highest court – firmly rejected the notion of same-sex 'marriage' as a constitutional civil right in this state, and declared that in fact the state has a legitimate interest in the rearing of children.”

The New York State Catholic Conference director said his organization has “warned both elected officials and the judiciary in New York, for a long time,” that ignoring this state interest and redefining marriage “will open the door to a situation where marriage is viewed simply as granting benefits for a relationship between two individuals.”

If this occurs, Barnes said, “the door will be open to abandonment of all principle of natural law underlying marriage.”

On June 29, just days after the “marriage” bill's passage in New York, Senator Grisanti's chief of staff Doug Curella told CNA that the senator was no longer giving any public comment on his vote.

“Senator Grisanti's floor comments explain his vote in the affirmative for Marriage Equality,” said Curella.

Grisanti said in those comments, that “under this bill the religious aspects and beliefs are protected, as well as for (sic) not-for-profits,”  The senator went on to explain why he believed the bill should be passed as soon as possible: “If this bill fails, I believe the next time around those religious protections won't be there.”

But Barnes said it is far from clear what the supposed protections, which he recalled were “introduced as a chapter amendment in the last moments of the legislative session,” actually accomplished.

“It wades into an area of law that is, in many ways, brand new,” he noted. “It touches on constitutional protections, which are now overlaid with a law declaring same-sex 'marriage' to be a civil right. Much of it is untested, and its impact will not be fully known for many years, I believe.”

Maggie Gallagher, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, said the supposed protections trumpeted by Grisanti are seriously flawed.

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“It protects some religious organizations; it doesn't protect religious people,” she told CNA on July 8. “If you're a marriage counselor, it's not going to help you stay in business against a claim that you're discriminating if you are not willing to help gay people keep their relationships together.”

“It's not going to protect others in the wedding industry, who feel they cannot in good conscience assist in a gay 'marriage.' And it's certainly going to do nothing for parents who do not want their children taught that gay 'marriage' is a fundamental civil right.”

Grisanti himself acknowledged, in his floor speech, that “many people who voted for me will question my integrity” because of his change of position. Gallagher recalled that her organization was among the groups courted by Grisanti as he touted support for traditional marriage last year.

“He was such a vocal opponent of gay 'marriage,'” she recalled. “He came to us, and he came to a lot of other people, when he was running against a Democrat who had voted for the gay 'marriage' bill in 2009, and he said he was unalterably opposed to same-sex marriage.

“'Unalterably' – that's a quote from him.”

Dr. Kevin Backus, chairman of the Grand Island Conservative Party, has claimed that Grisanti privately confirmed himself as a “No” vote on “Marriage Equality” only 11 days before the final vote.

Gallagher noted that at the national level, there are powerful forces working to flip the votes of wavering social conservatives.

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“At the elite level, in the Republican party, there is a powerful desire to make both parties functionally pro-gay 'marriage,'” she noted. “What happened in New York is part of a deliberately orchestrated campaign, from some major Republican elites, to eliminate marriage from the portfolio of the Republican Party.”

“They are betting that if they raise enough money, they can protect the Mark Grisantis of the world from the displeasure of actual Republican voters,” she said.

But she observed that the apparent lack of integrity is likely to cost Grisanti – who pled in his floor speech with “those whose support I may lose,” telling them that “in the past what I was telling you, and what I believed at that time, was the truth.”

Yet three days later, on June 27, he acknowledged that the strength of some of his past rhetoric against redefining marriage “was probably more political than actually conscience.”

Gallagher pointed to a recent New York Times article, featuring interviews with constituents in the districts of four senators who had changed their votes on the matter.

“They actually talked to a 27-year-old Republican who favors gay 'marriage,' who said he would never vote for Grisanti again – because he's such a liar,” she said.

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