The New York Marriage Equality Act and the Strength of Its Religious Exceptions
36 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2012 Last revised: 16 Oct 2012
Date Written: 2012
The New York Marriage Equality Act (“MEA”) was passed on June 24, 2011. Codified at Domestic Relations Law (“DRL”) §§ 10-a and 10-b, this law grants same-sex couples the right to marry, and includes an anti-discrimination provision prohibiting discrimination based on the spouses’ genders. The NY legislature created an exception to this anti-discrimination provision which purports to prevent religious organizations from being required to solemnize or recognize same-sex marriages. In addition, the exception also adopted language from the New York Human Rights Law (“HRL”), exempting religious organizations from anti-discrimination requirements when the organization acts to promote its religious principles. One year after its passage, it remains to be seen whether this exception will allow a religious organization, such as Catholic Charities, to follow its religious dictates by refusing to place foster children with same-sex couples. This paper will argue that the religious exception of the MEA, codified at DRL § 10-b(2), indeed covers the decision by religious organizations not to place foster children with same-sex couples. Part II will analyze New York court decisions interpreting identical religious exception language under the state’s HRL. Part III will examine the language of the MEA as well as other jurisdictions’ same-sex marriage laws. This textual analysis, along with a look at the MEA’s legislative history, suggests that the New York legislature intended the exception to provide broad protections to religious organizations. With this textual analysis, legislative history and judicial precedent in mind, Part IV will discuss how Catholic Charities’ decision not to place foster children with same-sex couples falls neatly within the exception’s protection. Finally, Part V will conclude the Note by presenting other challenges to Catholic Charities in carrying out their foster care placement services.
Keywords: Marriage Equality Act, Catholic Charities, Religious Organizations, Same-sex Marriage, Religious Objections
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation