Gay Marriage Bill Totalitarian Says Head Bishop

A string of announcements by New York state senators that they will support marriage equality have brought equality proponents within one vote of a majority—and apparently stirred some panic among anti-equality activists who have up until now been confident of victory. Today, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) urgently called on its supporters to get more phone calls into Senate offices. NOM is urging Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to use his power to keep marriage from coming to the floor for a vote.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Timothy Dolan is getting increasingly shrill in his efforts to stop the shift toward equality. This week, on his official blog, he wrote:

“Last time I consulted an atlas, it is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America—not in China or North Korea. In those countries, government presumes daily to ‘redefine’ rights, relationships, values, and natural law. There, communiqués from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of ‘family’ and ‘marriage’ means.”

Is Dolan really suggesting that if the elected legislature and elected governor of New York pass a law to end discrimination against same-sex couples, that would be equivalent to a totalitarian government deciding “who lives and who dies?” If so, Dolan is forfeiting his right to have his arguments taken seriously by legislators and anyone else.

Dolan’s reference to “natural law” mirrors NOM’s use of “natural marriage” and the Manhattan Declaration’s invocation of “natural human reason” to buttress their religious objections to marriage equality with a seemingly universal claim to nature and nature’s God.

But as shifts in public opinion, and the ever-changing vote count in the state senate make clear, the views of Dolan and NOM are far from universal, particularly in New York, where polls show that marriage equality enjoys the support of a strong majority of the state’s residents.

Peter Montgomery, an associate editor for Religion Dispatches, is a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way Foundation where he was on staff for 15 years. Before that he was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause and wrote for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government.