A Bronx cheer for real marriage


On Sunday I attended a rally opposing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to make same-sex marriage legal in New York State before the end of the current legislative session, which adjourns a few weeks from now. The last time it came up for a vote in 2009, it failed 24-38 in the Senate. Cuomo is the third Democratic governor in a row to try.

But this was not a Tea Party rally on Long Island. It was in the Bronx. The New York Hispanic Clergy Association sponsored it. And Democratic State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., who is also a Pentecostal minister, led the rally. Most of the English spoken that day was translated from Spanish.

Turnout was nothing close to the 20,000 that Diaz brought out in 2009, but it was a drizzly day. The crowd marched through the broad thoroughfares to the courthouse near Yankee Stadium carrying signs that read "1 man + 1 woman = God's will," and "Adan + Eva = Familia." People waved from their apartment windows with encouraging support. One woman, appearing in a third-story window with her husband, gave a thumbs down to the parading protesters. But her husband playfully smacked her hand down, and gave us his own thumbs up, adding laughter to the event.

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Among the speakers was Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). He warned that in others states that have legalized same-sex marriage, like Massachusetts, they have gone beyond merely permitting the arrangement, saying that they promote it in the schools from kindergarten on up, teaching children that if their parents disagree with it, they are bigots. Authorities also punish organizations that disagree with it, such as Christian adoption agencies, he told the crowd.

Democratic assemblyman Danny O'Donnell, a leading proponent of this change in the marriage laws, told The Wall Street Journal, "This is about state government issuing licenses. That's all it is, nothing more, nothing less."

NOM has $1 million set aside for mounting primary challenges to any New York Republican legislator who supports same-sex marriage. Gov. Cuomo introduced the bill this past week, and he is rolling out the deals to peel off wavering Republican state senators as the vote approaches.

The outcome of this vote could have implications for Gov. Cuomo's 2016 presidential ambitions, as well. Democratic strategist Bob Shrum said, "If he actually gets this done in a big state like New York, it'll be historic, it'll be a landmark, and not only strengthen him with the gay constituency-which is important in Democratic politics-but also for younger voters."

Advocates of the change present same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue. They ask, if you can, why can't we? They are calling it "marriage-equality." It's like referring to abortion as "choice." It avoids conjuring up morally shocking images.

But there's a problem. It's not marriage. As I enjoyed my first and perhaps final stroll through the Bronx, I searched for a plausible analogy and settled on another unique human relationship: the church. In our society, churches have certain tax advantages over other organizations and a respectability that not every organization has. What homosexuals want is comparable to insurance companies demanding that they too be recognized as churches. This would improve their public image and their bottom line at the same time. There is a surface resemblance, no? Like churches, they have buildings, they bring in money, and they take care of people.

But there's a problem. They are not churches. There is something essential to a church that does not and cannot happen in an insurance company as an insurance company, namely the worship of God. So, too, there is something essential to marriage that does not and cannot happen in an intimate, homosexual friendship, namely reproduction. Granted, there are heterosexual couples who cannot have children. But that is an accident of nature. In homosexual couples, it is a principle of nature.

In an interview, Brian Brown stressed to me that there are not two different forms of marriage, but "two mutually exclusive ideas." The legalization of same-sex marriage would not expand the boundaries of marriage. Says Brown, "It would fundamentally change it for everyone," and people who continue to think there is a difference would be called bigots.

Popular support for same-sex marriage in New York State is closely divided. Fifty-three percent disagree with same-sex marriage, and only 2 percent are undecided, according to a NY1-Marist College poll. It is no surprise, therefore, that NOM is investing $500,000 worth of advertising and lobbying into persuading "undecided" state senators and their constituents in the run-up to the vote.

D.C. Innes
D.C. Innes

D.C. is associate professor of politics at The King's College in New York City and co-author of Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Russell Media). Follow D.C. on Twitter @DCInnes1.


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