To the New York Senate: Let’s Have Some Freedom From Religion This Holiday

They always say the holidays are primed for depression, but with a kid at home I should be able to avoid it.

And then the New York Senate got me down.

I sit here ashamed to live in New York State eight years after I moved back to Sullivan County in part because I was proud to have been raised in a place where race, gender, sexuality mean nothing on a snowy day when your neighbor just needs a hand.

Eight years on, I live in a state where discrimination is just the name of the game, where ignoring the U.S. Constitution is OK as long as it gets you re-elected.

There’s a tricky part of the Constitution. It allows for freedom of religion, and with that comes freedom from religion. And you can’t have one without the other.

Because freedom from religion allows you to decide today that you no longer want to be a Catholic, say, but want to convert to Judaism to marry your true love.

It allows you to practice as a Methodist, even though the Assemblies of God up the street would really love to see you on Sunday morning.

It allows that all religious views are equal under the law. Not better. Just equal.

It allows that a Catholic church does not have to allow a divorced man to marry again. That a pastor in a Presbyterian church can simply decide “no, I don’t want to marry you.”

It’s the law, you see.

And it’s the law that allows for marriage in New York State, not the church. A pastor may oversee a marriage, but it is not legally binding until the license has been signed and sent away to the issuing governmental entity.

And as such, the government can’t force a religious ceremony. You can go to city hall or call the justice of the peace to your house. Nor can they force you out of a religious ceremony. Don’t want a JP? You can call on your minister or your rabbi.

And none of them can uphold the “sanctity of your marriage.” Not legally, anyhow. If Susie and Billy meet tomorrow and decided to get married on Friday, there’s nothing holding them back – provided they’re over 18, not brother and sister and not trying to get Susie a green card.

How’s that for sanctity? Anyone want to lay bets on how long that marriage will last? How screwed up the kids will be?

And what’s the State of New York going to do about it? Nothing – because the U.S. Constitution prevents them from doing so. As the Declaration of Independence states, “all men are created equal.” Created to make our own way in life – regardless of color, of gender, of sexuality.

By voting against gay marriage last week, the New York State Senate put all of that in jeopardy.

It took a stand on behalf of discrimination, not against it. Those Senators who voted against gay marriage decimated the legal standing of New York State.

Because as long as the government issues marriage licenses, it’s a legal term, not a religious one. And as long as New York State allows for religion to take over its legal proceedings, we have lost the battle to protect our own religious freedom.

So if you’re looking toward Christmas with a lighter heart knowing Adam and Steve can’t be married, just think what it would be like to see the state shutter the doors of your church just in time for Christmas services and tell you to switch religions.

If gay men and women aren’t equal, neither are you.

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