UDPATED: Analysis: Amended Religious Exemptions in NY Marriage Equality Bill

First, to sausage-making. State Senator Ball, a Republican from somewhere other than New York City, came out against the bill before the amendments were finalized. His statement is irking some in the gay blogosphere:

Knowing that marriage equality was likely to pass, I thought it important to force the issue of religious protections. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the distinct opportunity of listening to literally thousands of residents, on both sides of this issue, by holding an undecided stance. I thought it was important to listen to all of my constituents and hold an undecided position until the actual bill language was written and everyone’s voice had been heard. Now that the final text is public, I am proud that I have secured some strong protections for religious institutions and basic protections for religious organizations. The bill still lacks many of the basic religious protections I thought were vital, and for this reason, and as I did in the Assembly, I will be voting ‘no.’”

Some have read that statement to mean that Senator Ball "took," or, rather feigned, "an undecided stance" in order to push through a number of religious exemptions. Their evidence is not just his language — saying you took an undecided position is not the same as saying you were actually undecided — but also his public decision to vote note before the amendments came out. So, some argue, he faked his way through, knowing he was going to jump ship anyway. That is the argument, at least. I prefer to be a little more optimistic about life (what's that old saying? the optimist and the pessimist are born and die on the same day, but the optimist lives better?), but what do you think?

As for the amendments themselves, the sticking point has been so-called religious exemptions to the marriage law. Most of us believe that religious exemptions are fine — why would I want a clergyman who dislikes gay people to marry me? — but if the exemptions allowed, say, a Jesuit hospital to deny visitation rights to a same-sex married spouse, I would object.

The amendments first clause specifically refers to objections to "the solemnization or celebration of a marriage," though an admittedly broad reading of the word "celebration" could include any type of "recognition" of the marriage. I hardly think that is a valid interpretation, though.

The second amendment is a bit trickier. It reads: "Nothing in this Article shall limit or diminish the right … of any religious … institution or organization," or a charitable organization run in connection with a religious organization, "to limit employment or sales or rental of housing … or admission to or give preference to persons of the same religion … or from taking such action as is calculated by such organization to promote the religious principles for which it is established or maintained."

This appears to be what I was worried about. In New England and in the Mid-Atlantic states (as, I am sure, elsewhere), we have lots of hospitals connected to religious orders (I was born in one!), which could "tak[e] such action" to promote their religious principles by denying spousal visitation rights to legally married same-sex spouses. On the other hand, hospitals with emergency rooms still have to take patients as they come; but it seems that a hospital that treats a gay man, but refuses to let his spouse sit by his death bed, would not be in violation of this law. Thoughts?

Finally, there is something called "severability." One of the amendments requires that the law remain unseverable, so if one part is found to be unconstitutional, the whole law goes down as unconstitutional. In other words, if one part of the law is held unconstitutional (ie., a religious exemption), then the entire
thing is unconstitutional. A court cant "sever" the bad parts from the good parts. That clause is becoming increasingly common in New York State laws, but I wonder if it could pose difficult questions down the road. I don't think so, but maybe that is a failure of imagination. I ask you: What do you think?

In the end, if these amendments mean I can marry the man I love in my beloved home state, then I embrace them. We all should!

UPDATE: I would like to update the post, which was done super quickly after the amendments came out, to respond to one series of questions about severability and general worry about the concerns I raise. First, let me be clear (as the President likes to say): the hospital visitation issue is unlikely to come up. The concerns I raise are on the margins, as things to keep in mind. Plus, I neglected to mention that nonseverability clauses are not sacrosanct. For this omission, I must apologize; I did not do any research on severability before posting. A loyal reader — LdS — reminded me of United States v. Jackson, a case we teach in Federal Courts, where one part of a statute was served from the whole even with a nonseverability clause. It happens quite a bit, and yet legislatures still sneak it in there. In the end, I don't think these amendments are worrisome. There is potentially broad language, but none of that language does anything to obscure the main point here: this is a HUGE step toward allowing us to marry! Please do not forget that!

Ari Ezra Waldman is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. After practicing in New York for five years and clerking at a federal appellate court in Washington, D.C., Ari is now on the faculty at California Western School of Law in San Diego, California. His research focuses on gay rights and the First Amendment. Ari will be writing weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues. 

Follow Ari on Twitter at @ariezrawaldman.

Comments

  1. ohplease says

    Reading this most recent post of yours is seriously one of the most egregious wastes of my time ever. And that’s saying something. But did you say anything — anything at all? If you did, I missed it between the cutesy homilies and the constant questions put to me. Why are you even asking me what I think? Aren’t you supposed to be the legal expert?

    I’m sorry to be mean, but this moment is too important for you to screw up. We want answers and you’ve taken supplying answers here as your responsibility. I don’t believe you’re living up to it.

  2. esurience says

    Wow this is terrible. Federal regulations (thanks to Obama) currently require any hospital that receives federal funds to allow hospital visitation to same-sex partners, correct? So it seems this would be a conflict between federal and state law, and the the marriage bill might be struck down on those grounds.

    As to Senator Ball, it’s completely obvious what he did. I don’t know why people who are determined to vote “no” on something are allowed at the negotiation table. If you’re going to insert language into a bill, your vote should be conditioned on it.

  3. Ari says

    @ohplease: in fact, i did. read it again, slowly this time. i said i don’t think the broad interpretation of “celebration” is valid, so that’s ok. i also said that there is a chance the second amendment could be an issue in emergency rooms. i also said that i don’t see any problem with severability. so, i provided my view. i also think discussion is a good thing.

  4. Sam says

    OhPlease, you’re an idiot with few reading comprehension skills.

    What exactly did he not answer for you? Rather than berate, why don’t you illuminate?

    Maybe it is because I’m a lawyer, but it seems like a pretty sound analysis of the proposed bill. You can’t always know for sure how language in a bill is going to be interpreted. That is why there are lawyers. And courts.

  5. daftpunkydavid says

    re: the hospital visits: didn’t the obama administration draft some sort of rules making hospitals who receive federal funds accept the same-sex lovers/spouses/partners of their patients?

  6. Bruno says

    Re: Ball. It was unquestionably going to be a political vote he took, and he knew it would be “no” from day one. Despite being talkative, attention-grabbing, and possibly not altogether that bright, I kind of get the feeling he wants the bill to pass despite his vote.

    Re: Bill. I hadn’t thought of that possibility regarding hospital visitation. However, I think Obama has mandated that all hospitals that affiliate with Medicaid must allow spousal visitation for same-sex couples, or something along those lines.

  7. Ninong says

    If for any reason the law is struck down as unconstitutional in the future, what happens to all the couples who were married in the interim? Are their marriages still legal, a la California?

  8. searunner says

    @Ari: Wouldn’t the Obama’s administration’s memo (or whatever the technical term is) regarding hospital visitation for same-sex couples render your hospital situation moot?

  9. Peter says

    @ohplease Rude! You act as if you had engaged him as counsel. This is a blog, one that has worked tirelessly to cover this issue.

    Thanks for this, Ari. If hospital visitation does become an issue, than that will be unfortunate, especially since it will only come up and be resolved _after_ someone has been denied visiting rights.

  10. Robert says

    Ari, I share some of your concerns; I think the Repubs are trying hard to exempt as many people as possible with any religious objection to same sex marriage from obeying the law, e.g. the case of the wedding photographer who was sued for refusing to shoot a gay wedding, and particularly publicly-supported Catholic Adoption services who have shut down rather than be required to treat gay couples equally.
    So I’m still a bit unclear as to who is “exempt” from obeying this law, and who isn’t, and based on whose religious objections. I’d love a little more clarification about this.

  11. BobN says

    People, this is a ROLLBACK of hard-won guarantees of non-discrimination in employment and public accommodation.

    The second clause isn’t just about hospitals. It’s about being able to FIRE an employee for getting married. It’s about refusing to enroll children in day camp. It’s about refusing to extend equal employment benefits to gay couples.

    A married gay couple in New York has more rights TODAY than it will if the bill passes.

  12. Brains says

    No bias, but I am a well-seasoned and roasted lawyer as well.

    Ari, as usual, good job!

    We are all frustrated, OHPLEASE, we want this Republic to do the right thing and not by piece meal.

    However, patience is a virtue well exercised by the victorious….we share your frustration….

  13. BobN says

    Basic sales tactics 101.

    If a guy comes up to you at the very last minute and offers “a deal”, you’re supposed to WALK AWAY.

    Table it till Monday. Don’t get caught up in the excitement and sign away your rights.

  14. daftpunkydavid says

    @ esurience: why do u see a conflict between the state law and the federal rule? the state law doesnt mandate hospitals allow same-sex spouses, so please develop your argument a little more, i can’t follow.

  15. Guest says

    I’m confused bc the second amendment seems to have a lot more to do than hospital visitation. It discusses “sales” and “employment” and “housing.”

  16. Wren says

    I think we take what we can right now and sort out the rest in courts (or in a future Democratic majority NY legislature) if we have to later. This is too big a prize and tipping point in the movement to act otherwise. Thank you Ari for your analysis and I apologize for those who would criticize you for asking questions about interpretation over obviously vague language and construction.

  17. Mike says

    So religious institutions are in the real estate business? They rent? Whatever! BUT… and here is a question… nothing in the amendment says anything about the taking of public funds. I would say if they don’t take public $$$ then fine, but if they do then they are subject to regulation and that would trump anything in this law. Meaning: Fine, you have a right to discriminate, as long as you aren’t asking the public to fund it. You don’t have a right to get public $$$ with no strings attached. It’s already enough knowing I’m subsidizing all this religious crap via all the tax breaks they get.

  18. searunner says

    @Wren: Given the severability clause, there is no court option. I think you pass the bill, and address any deficiencies that arise during a future legislative session.

  19. Mike says

    Thanks for a very clear explanation of what is going on, Ari! If it were obvious how laws would be interpreted, we wouldn’t need judicial review by the courts. You are right to point out these potential pitfalls, though they may never come to pass.

    The whole religious exemption issue is completely unnecessary anyway. Nobody has ever forced the Catholic Church to solemnize the marriage of a divorcee, yet that requires no explicit religious exemption. The only thing this can lead to is continued discrimination against same-sex couples in public services such as hospitals and adoption.

  20. Sam says

    Sorting it out in courts is the reason why the severability clause is concerning. You can’t “sort” it out. If one provision is thrown out, so is marriage. Though hopefully they can amend later after some of these idiot republicans are tossed out.

    I think once it happens, you can work it out later through legislative means. It’s more important to get marriage up and running so people can see the sky isn’t going to fall.

  21. Zlick says

    Ari, do you think the situation in California, with 18,000 married same-sex couples making an absurdity of the crazy-quilt of laws and statuses had any significant effect on the favorable federal court ruling on Prop. 8?

    Because I’m thinking a similar situation could end up happening in New York, if the marriage equality law is struck down in its entirety because of enshrined bigotry protections once umpteen tens of thousands of same-sex couples have already married.

    I’d rather the law stay in place, but not at the cost of allowing unconstitutional personal bigotry to run rampant in (New York) society against gays and lesbians and trans folk. To me, that makes the cure worse than the sickness.

  22. Ari says

    thanks for your comments, all. in response to some comments about the hospital visitation and president obama’s rule. first, hospital visitation isn’t the only possible issue. it is simply the one i chose as an example to lay out one scenario. in any event, there is also a new your public health law that requires ALL hospitals, not just nonreligious ones, to grant visitation. so, it is conceivable that this could set up a conflict. and here is where severability could become a problem. if this particular exemption goes down because of the other ny health law and an interpretation of the NY state constitution, the entire thing could go down.

    but, before you worry, keep this in mind. this scenario is UNLIKELY. most hospitals don’t run around violating rights, even religious ones. they are doctors first. second, severability is not really sacrosanct. as a longtime reader reminded me from his Fed Courts class, SCOTUS has taken it upon itself to sever even where there have been nonseverability clauses. it all has to do with rationality after the severing.

    so, dont worry. THIS IS A GREAT DAY!

  23. Ari says

    oh and thanks for the support, everyone. but, im a big boy, i can handle those who dont show respect. i always strive to show respect in return, though.

  24. Jack says

    Ari:

    I don’t think the severability clause will pose significant problems. Courts seem to pretend they don’t exist when undertaking severability analysis.

  25. beergoggles says

    A married gay couple in New York has more rights TODAY than it will if the bill passes.

    Posted by: BobN | Jun 24, 2011 6:11:07 PM

    What he said. You’re giving up non-discrimination rights across the entire state to save yourself a 3 hour train ride to Boston.

  26. silverkjk says

    Ari, thank you for your analysis. I am not an attorney, but in reading the second amendment, I wondered if it was written in part to cover the Knights of Columbus, etc., who rent out halls for wedding receptions. I also wondered if the exemption for employees, etc. of religious organizations is so broad that, for instance, someone in the Knights who is also a landlord (although the property ownership has nothing to do with the Knights) could refuse a married gay couple housing because of the exemption. (I hope this is fairly clear.) Again, thanks, and I hope to hear from you.

  27. bandanajack says

    i can foresee BIG problems with the non-severability clause. its like having a sweater with a dangling thread, the tugging of which causes the entire sweater to unravel,, and marking it “pull here”. this also exempts acknowledged hate groups, hell, even the KKK would be exempt. IF it passes, i think we will come to rue the dayt, unless the very non-severability can be challenged in appellate court.

  28. Brains says

    SAM,

    A severable clause is added to do the opposite. If any particular part of this amendment is deemed null and void by a court, the remaining provisions remain valid. They then become several independent agreements.

  29. searunner says

    @ari: If a court found parts of the bill unlawful due to federal statutes, would that still trigger the nonseverability clause? I would assume the nonseverability clause would apply only to the ability of state courts to strike down parts of the bill. Afterall, many states still have laws on the books that are in clear violation of federal law.

    And I really enjoy your posts!

  30. Ari says

    This is not some vague version of marriage. This is full civil marriage rights. This crowd HAS to stop being so pessimistic about life. We are all entitled to our opinions, but c’mon folks: if you cannot be happy when a state like New York recognizes our love, what will make you happy? its just baffling to me!

  31. Brains says

    Ari,

    The ‘Nonseverable” clause was agreed to as it is a “bomb” aimed at those who wish to void this agreement with this amendment on what is on its face an illegal attachment. Yes, it means the entire agreement could be made void by the nonseverable clause. But case history, as you quote, is on the side of courts bifurcating agreements due to this very issue. Lack of good faith!

  32. Charlie says

    Well, I guess whatever the final meaning of these amendments will be will be decided by the courts. It would seem to me this is much like the Boy Scout case. The BSA are a private organization that can discriminate against gay people and athiests to their heart content. But they don’t have a right to public funds (in jurisdictions that choose not to give money) or to to participation in United Way campaigns.

    My guess is that they will be able to decline recognition of visitation rights for gay spouses, but if they adopt such policies they will be have to forgo federal reimbursement of expenses. That won’t happen. Medicare and Medicaid are too important to allow that.

    And I am quite certain this will only apply to issues of marriage recognition. For instance, they can decline to provide health benefits to the married partners of gay people while giving this to straight people. But they cannot fire someone for being gay.

    But I am not a lawyer and this will all be settled in court. The political power of the Catholic Church is too much to resist their demand for special privileges.

  33. Mark says

    Wow. Such negativity here.

    Look folks, while I spend most of my time in Cali, I spend several months out of the year in the South on business. Gays in that region would love to have anything close to this. And they won’t get anything close until the issue is settled by the courts.

    I know, I know, it’s not the exact wording I’d choose either, but better to get marriage rights in a major state than to throw it all away because of a relatively minor disagreement over the religious exemption language. When the SCOTUS considers this issue in a few years, we want to be in the best position we can to say to Anthony Kennedy: Yes, the country definitely is heading this direction and here’s the proof.

  34. John says

    I’ve read everything about the second amendment above, including the update. But I am still confused so let me ask very specific questions.

    1. Can Religious-affiliated adoption groups in New York currently refuse to allow a same-sex couple to adopt a child through their agency?

    2. If / When this marriage bill passes and signed into law, and if the answer to my first question is NO, will the passage of this bill then allow the religious-affiliated adoption agency to start refusing to allow same-sec couples to adopt a child through their agency?

    If the answer to 2. is YES, then this law will in effect take away rights currently granted to New York same-sex couples. Furthermore, it would be a change that would be notable and one that could end up being challenged. If that is the case, are there other examples?

    Now, having said that. Using my example, and a same-sex couple sued a religion-affiliated adoption agency, couldn’t a court rule that this particularly law doesn’t apply to adoption, and thus order the adoption agency to process the adoption for the same-sex couple?

    I mean, there is a difference between saying a law is “invalid” thus invoking the non-severability issue, and saying it doesn’t apply, isn’t there?

    I am not an attorney so I may not be describing things quite accurately, but I am hoping someone can address my questions so the other common-folk 😉 can follow along.

    Many thanks for any input someone may be able to share.

  35. Joe says

    Thank you for this great information, and for its well thought-out presentation.

    No, IANAL. But yes, I’ve read the recently passed marriage equality laws (NH, VT)and have been following the fight for marriage equality. Yes, the severability clause is a concern, vis-a-vis the potential forestalling of legal relief from discrimination. And yes, the enshrining of exceptions so that bigots can continue their little fiefdoms of prejudice is offensive to anyone who values equality under the law.

    However, in Massachusetts ([God] bless it, for being first!), when marriage equality was passed, a majority of the population was against marriage equality; I believe it was approx. 60-40 against. Through the triple miracles of 1) peoples’ short attention spans; 2) seeing that “the sky didn’t fall,” nor did Armageddon come; and 3) real, teachable moments involving their gay/lesbian/bi newly-married friends, family, and neighbors, after a few years of marriage equality, a majority of the Mass. population supports marriage equality. And their legislature stopped several efforts from the right-wing to roll back marriage rights in the intervening time. People in Mass. now support marriage equality, whereas prior to it being ‘the law of the land,’ support was much more a toss-up.

    So let it pass, imperfections and all. In a very, very few years, a better marriage equality law will be more easily passed, eliminating all traces of legal discrimination.

    [And for those who are fed up with organized religion and its entrenched bigotries, a silver lining of this law and its exemptions is that it firmly exemplifies for the youth that organized religion=bigotry. May the churches, mosques, and temples which foment falsehood and discrimination forfeit their future via educated attrition.]

  36. John says

    Well, I did just think of another obvious question.

    With the passage of this law, will religious institutions now feel they are within their rights to fire an employee because they entered into a same-sex marriage?

    That would be illegal today, if I understand New York law correctly. But with the wording of the second amendment, it seems a religious institution could certainly elect to interpret it that way.

    They might well say, “Well, as a single person who was homosexual, we had no choice but to honor your employment. However, we don’t feel having a married homosexual is compatible with our religious teachings so we’re firing you.”

    I am not trying to be negative, but the fact that the amendment seems to stand alone. In laymen terms, it seems to read, “despite any law to the contrary, religious institutions can do what they want.”

    And if that is the correct interpretation, that’s a pretty broad stroke.

    Or am I silly for thinking it can be so broadly viewed when it’s an amendment related to marriage? I’d gladly hear a “yes” to that question, btw.

  37. Melvin says

    In response to John:

    Regarding your first question, I believe the answer is “no,” at least according to http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201106170008. If the information on this page is correct, then private religious adoption agencies are NOT currently allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples.

    However, I share your concerns regarding question two. I’m not sure if the language in this bill will permit private religious adoption agencies from discriminating against same-sex couples in the future. However, if it does, you’re right that this marriage equality law will ironically actually be taking AWAY some rights from gay couples.

  38. Reed says

    Our small city’s only hospital is owned and operated by Catholic Healthcare West. CHW, being religiously exempted, does not provide birth control information nor services at this particular hospital.

    While other CHW-related grants and funding have been distributed to organizations elsewhere in our state that have included Planned Parenthood, our CHW hospital has taken a hard line.

    I think the “exemptions” are going to be problematic to work out with regard to “who is allowed to visit.” Lawyers will continue to make a tidy sum off of durable Powers of Attorney (“just in case”).

  39. BobN says

    Have anyone else noticed that this “good news” has not resulted in explosions of outrage at NOM and the NY Archdiocese?

    Now, why do you suppose that is?

    We are selling our rights down the drain, all because we’re in too big a hurry to understand what is being exempted.

  40. BobN says

    If you work for a Catholic school or for a community hospital affiliated with a religious order or live in public housing that is administered by a church, your marriage will mean nothing, it may even be grounds for firing or evicting you.

    You just watch.

  41. Jon says

    Ari, I reviewed the existing statutory language at NY Executive Law 296, para. 11, and it is word-for-word the second exemption that is included here. I don’t believe the amendment expands this exemption in any way, and that exemption has had little impact on GLBT New Yorkers to date. So I have no concern about this exemption.

  42. Phil says

    @ Ari. Concerning that portion of the second amendment: “NOTHING IN THIS ARTICLE SHALL LIMIT OR DIMINISH THE RIGHT…TO PROMOTE THE RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES FOR WHICH IT IS ESTABLISHED OR MAINTAINED”

    This seems to say that the new law isn’t taking away any rights from religiously affiliated hospitals that they already have. However, if such hospitals didn’t have the right to refuse visitation rights before, I don’t think the language of this law creates a new right that religiously affiliated hospitals *didn’t* have before. Am I on the right track?

    Also, would a challenge by a religiously affiliated hospital necessarily endanger the law itself? It might only mean that the hospital had the right to discriminate, but wasn’t eligible for federal funds under Obama’s and New York State’s regulations.

  43. Jorge says

    Even if the bill does not have a severability clause, sometimes courts will sever it anyway, rather than strike down a whole law.

    Unfortunately I’m not at my pc to post examples

  44. Jorge says

    Sorry my post about severability was way late. By the way guys – the bill hasn’t passed yet….

    What I find missing in this discussion is the national significance of this. Even with religious exemptions, the more states with marriage equality by the time this eventually goes to SCOTUS the more likely Kennedy will vote for equality. This is proven from prior cases

  45. Randy says

    I could not disagree more.

    This bill demeans every marriage in NY, regardless of whether it’s a couple just passing through, or a long-time couple of married citizens. What was once a marriage in NY may soon be an it-depends-marriage, because any religious group providing a public service can decide whether you are married in that context or not. This is an issue for interracial marriages, marriages between religions, atheist couples, — it’s not just us anymore.

    It cedes control to religious groups (and ONLY religious groups) regarding which marriages to recognize. Some small towns may thereby be entirely off-limits to “undesirable” couples as such. And yet non-religious groups do not get to similarly discriminate against marriages they choose not to recognize.

    I think it’s unconstitutional, and if passed it must be challenged and struck down.

    Same-sex couples still have plenty of options (other states, Canada) in the few short years it will take to shift a few votes so you don’t need to grant these dangerous religious powers.

  46. mb says

    Thanks Ari!. As usual, this is a helpful post in the midst of a situaiton in flux. So helpful to have this guide. How incredibly triumphant will NYC Gay Pride be on Sunday if this goes through tonight?!

  47. William says

    Ari,

    “The amendments (sic) first clause specifically refers to objections to ‘the solemnization or celebration of a marriage, though an admittedly broad reading of the word ‘celebration’ could include any type of ‘recognition’ of the marriage. I hardly think that is a valid interpretation, though.”

    I am bemused about your concern over the use of the word “celebration,” here. I doubt the word means much in civil law; but is a nod to conservative Catholics who have come out against the bill. The word ‘celebrate’ in Catholic circles is used in reference to Catholic liturgies/rituals associated with sacraments. We, for example, ‘celebrate’ a Mass, the liturgy associated with Eucharist and holy communion. When we ‘celebrate’ a wedding, we, as Catholics are engaging in a liturgy or ritual that formally recognizes and blesses the union of two people. So “celebration,” here, means nothing more than the earlier use of “solemnization.” To use both terms is redundant; and, I think, “celebration” is a meaningless and unnecessary term to use in a civil law.

    Having said that, it is clear that this legislator is not interested in writing clear law, but in writing law that appeases a sectarian interest.

  48. Gus says

    As someone whose Protestant family has two ordained ministers and one member employed by a religious social service agency, I still have problems with tax dollars going to a body who can discriminate against my 27 year relationship. If the religious carve out continues tax support for discrimination there will be law suits testing the severance clause.

    Knowing the members of my family as I do, is the severance clause a jobs and funding protection clause?

  49. Alex says

    Greg Ball is well known to be a closeted gay man….he voted no to to please his father and to stay in the closet. What a wimp. Totally without balls.

  50. dms says

    Fine. It’s all good. Can you imagine the reaction by the public when a married man is not allowed into his husband’s hospital room?

    I can’t wait for the first hospital to try it. They’ll be vilified. Even people squeamish about marriage equality think partners should be able to have hospital visitation. I don’t think it’s a practical problem.

    This is an amazing day.

    Which state is next?

  51. Mark says

    Ezra, thank you! you are brilliant! your analysis is amazing! on point and clear analysis and education are exactly what we need to inform America that we are entitled to all the rights of citizens. you are our greatest activist/advocate although i’m not sure you intend to be. thank you thank you.

  52. Kelly Young says

    We should keep in mind that the religious protections aspects of the bill do not, it appears, trump state anti-discrimation laws. And they certainly do not trump any federal laws, such as Americans With Disabilities Act. I am confident that right-wing attorneys will search for hole through which to push their bigotry, but the bill seems only to allow those who disapprove of marriage equality to have nothing whatsoever to do with a same-sex marriage. And in a free society like ours, both equality and the ability to associate or not are critical. This is ALL for the better.

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