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Cuomo, GOP Senate leaders working on language for religious protections

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UPDATE @ 9:41 AM: Paul Schindler has another excellent update on the situation in Albany. This is particularly relevant to the religious issue:

Upper West Side Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, the lead sponsor of marriage equality in the Assembly, told Gay City News on Saturday that any revised language would reflect provisions already in New York law –– made explicit in the context of marriage equality by incorporating them into the bill approved.

“I can assure you that my speaker [Silver], this governor, this governor’s secretary, this governor’s counsel, and I would never, ever agree to write discrimination into this bill,” he said. “There will not be in there any language that reflects a reduction in the rights of gay people.”
First, there's a "Rally for Love and Marriage" in Albany today at noon. If you can get there, go!

It's all about the religious exemption language now. To be clear, our allies and advocates, including the Governor, believe the current language is sufficient. But, in NY, the GOPers have to appeal to their dwindling base in the religious right. Sure seems like these Republicans are letting the Archdiocese dictate their vote.

From today's Albany Times Union:
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Long Island, said no vote has been scheduled. Several senators and staffers are still working with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to amend the bill to further cement existing religious protections. Skelos said his conference was seeking language to make sure the protections can't be legally severed from bill language legalizing the marriages.

"We want to ensure that protection survives whatever any court says about this legislation," said Sen. Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island. "Everyone agrees in concept, that we've talked to, that we should do whatever we can to protect religious expression. ... Finding the language, I believe, will ultimately not be a problem."
More importantly, once they find the language, will Lanza, one of the undecided GOPers, support the bill?

This debate is focusing national attention on some of the NY GOPers. Another undecided GOP Senator, Greg Ball, was on CNN yesterday having an annoying conversation with Christine Romans about religious exemptions:
ROMANS: Let's talk about -- Senator, let's talk about those religious protections. The concern among other Republicans as well is that this could somehow come back to hurt a religious organization who, say, wouldn't perform a same-sex marriage and they would be sued or, for example, for religious group that would want to -- or adoptions. That they could somehow get tied up in this.

How are those being addressed to you? Those concerns that this could hurt religious groups?

BALL: You know, first, it's got to be laid that out there. We have seen this happen in other states that have done this. So we're not talking in some fairy land. We're talking about something very real. And we don't want to see this play itself out in New York state.

And there are three basic categories. Just very quickly. Religious institutions themselves. In this bill, there's a language to religious corporations but the actual individuals who conduct those marriages, those ceremonies, are not necessarily protected within the language of the bill of the religious institutions.

Then you have religious organizations -- Knights of Columbus is an example -- and whether or not they would be open up to lawsuits, have their not-for-profit tax exempt status challenged, or whether from a regulatory perspective their permits could actually be pulled.

Those protections have not been fully laid out within the context of the bill that came out last week. And that's why I said if that bill sat I'm most certainly be an absolute no. And you know the toughest ones come to religious protections for individuals who have religious objections. And that's the toughest needle to thread. But I believe the government needs to at least pay respect to that side of the argument as well.

ROMANS: So here, so you're on the fence. There's a half dozen who are on the fence here. If you got -- if you got all of the protections that you say you need there, then in theory you support gay marriage in New York?

BALL: You know what I would say and I look at it from a different angle, without religious protections I would be an absolute no, and the other senators -- I can't speak for them. But I can tell you that, you know, without the religious protections from my personal perspective, I don't see how the governor gets it done.
The bill has religious protections. Greg Ball knows that. He's playing a game with our equality. Greg Ball is a young guy. He should know better. I suspect he wants to run for higher office. In a couple years, this will seem like a no-brainer. But, it will define Ball's career.

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