NY Senator Lanza Seeks Broader Religious Exemptions in Marriage Equality Bill, Calls it ‘Line in the Sand’


After a meeting with Governor Cuomo attended by Senators Lanza, Hannon, and Saland this evening, Hannon and Saland left without saying anything to press. Senator Andrew Lanza held a short gaggle and told press that broader religious exemptions is a "line in the sand" for his vote, according to reporters on the scene.

Capitol Confidential has more:

“We wouldn’t want to create a situation where people’s religious beliefs are threatened or challenged by something we do here,” said Sen. Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island. “There’s no middle ground, we want to get it right…If you get it wrong, you expose our religious organizations to litigation, and we shouldn’t do that.”


  1. LiamB says

    Just what f’n protections do they still think they need? Christ, do they just not understand the fact that they already cannot be forced into marrying any couple they don’t agree with? They are protected beyond what is necessary to begin with.

  2. Dan says

    I wish someone would write an intelligent article on this. Specifically what protections do these Republicans want? Do they want any individual or business to be able to discriminate against gay couples? Or, do they simply want religious officials, congregations, places of worship, etc. to be able to discriminate?

  3. Mike says

    Not a single reporter, NOT ONE, can just ask him what exactly they are asking for and how it differs from what is already protected and prohibited due to existing equality laws??

  4. letthemeatcake says

    It’s already in there that religious institutions are exempt. This bill affects only civil marriage. So I don’t think I’m alone in saying FU senator Lanza. If you won’t vote we’ll find someone else who will

  5. Richie says

    I think an intelligent article needs intelligent information. I doubt they have released what they are seeking. I wish they would though, but they themselves may not really know — or are embarrassed to put it out in a statement. I believe there are already religious protections, and this argument is really a fallacy, there is no religious protections anti-gay enough to get their Yes vote.

  6. Bruno says

    @Dan: Specifically, they want religious organizations to never have to do anything they don’t want regarding gay marriages. So, if an org adopts out children with government funding, they want to protect that org from losing the funding if they refuse to adopt to gay couples. That is a HUGE problem. Also, they seem to want these protections to apply to individuals in the public sphere, which is an even HUGER problem. I just don’t see any leeway here…they’d basically be creating marriages that aren’t real marriages.

  7. Jon B says

    I saw screw it. Have them vote, let it fail, and take all of these a-holes out in the next election. The Republicans should hope it passes. I doubt they want this debate going on for the next year and into election season. Every poll shows New Yorkers support marriage equality by a large margin. If they don’t respect the opinions of their constituents, let them explain it during their election campaigns. However, we need to put up viable candidates against them.

  8. Bruno says

    @Jon B: They won’t let it get to a vote without some sort of compromise on this, I can guarantee you that.

  9. says

    Again, I state, legislators are legislating on their religious beliefs vice the law of the land, know as the Constitution where, in their oath, they swore to “support and defend” and “bear true faith and allegiance”. They are letting religious organizations control our laws and rights. We are on the threshold of a Theocracy.

  10. Tim says

    This is an excellent HuffPo article on the religious aspects of marriage equality that addresses the problem with using religion on only one side of this debate:


    Senator Ball made it very clear. He wants exemptions for any person of faith who is against same sex marriage to be able to discriminate against same sex couples. It is not acceptable based on race or religion and it should not be OK based on sexual orientation.

    Ball, Lanza, and I’m sure Saland and the rest, never had any intention of voting for equality, but they love the attention it’s getting them.

  11. Pete n SFO says

    Here’s an idea…

    Avoid litigation by not passing unconstitutional laws in the first place.

    When I read this guy’s comments the other day, my impression was that they are trying to garner a special exemption for bigots whose function space might be used for gay celebrations; they could object (discriminate) without fear of law suit.

    Free to be, bigoted me… kind of thing.

  12. Bruno says

    Here’s an option: put the language in that he wants. Get his vote and the other 1 or 2 that would come along. Put a separability clause in it and let the courts decide. Or repeal that language at the soonest juncture.

  13. Leto says

    Please just let it pass. Whatever comprise must be made to get it done. This will be a MAJOR victory. Take the prejudicial parts out through litigation, but get it done now! The oportunity is NOW. Do it.

  14. TampaZeke says

    Those of you who are supporting giving into these ridiculous demands are clearly forgetting who you’re dealing with. First of all, it’s not a given that they would vote for it even if we sell our souls. Secondly, marriage is basically null and void if ANYONE can discriminate against it based on their personal beliefs and thirdly, and most importantly, if we take the “compromise” and pass this bill and then sue, we will fall into the trap that is being set and we will become the next billboard claiming that even when we get what we want we still sue to attack good Christians and force them to support something their religion forbids. RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION. We should refuse the demand and take our chances. If they vote it down, we take them down in the next election.

    These assholes have spent the last day and a half desperately trying to find a way to either kill the bill or neuter it before passing it. It looks like the scumbags have succeeded AS THEY ALWAYS DO.

    I said earlier today that I didn’t have nearly as much faith that this was going to happen as most people seem to. How quickly do we forget Maryland, Delaware and Rhode Island?

  15. NY2.0 says

    Pandering to people like this is a waste of time. Senator Lanza from the lily white and deeply conservative Staten Island is not going to vote for same-sex marraige, this is just a delaying tactic.
    So much for voting for Republicans.

  16. Craig says

    “Sir, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States – not the other way around.”

    I can’t remember who said this, but it was during one of these stupid outbursts from the religious right. What a beautiful way to put it.

  17. Mike says

    The guy is a dick. He wants to be carte blanche to folks to discriminate. F them! Vote their asses out of office!

  18. Francis says

    No, we do not sell ourselves short just to see this bill pass. We do not put ourselves in a bad situation for these bigoted Republicans. That is exactly what they want. They want us to grovel and kiss their feet, do everything they wish and command. This is exactly what happened in Maryland all over again, legislators putting personality morality over legality, demanding concessions, but not really ever considering voting for marriage equality.

    We can’t continue to expect these social conservatives (Dem and Rep) to pull through for us. Time and time again they haven’t, or have said they would but left us out in the cold when the chips were down. We obviously need to see NY have marriage equality, but we shouldn’t compromise on our self-respect to make it happen.

    So, with that said, now we move on to Hannon, Saland and any other potential senators we can flip to a yes vote. Ball and Lanza should be seen as NO votes at this point, and unless they show impetus that they are willing to vote yes, we shouldn’t waste our time selling our message to those who aren’t listening.

  19. Jon in Rochester, NY says

    What’s next an exemption that allows religious institutions to burn gays at the stake. What D-bags these guys are!

  20. Bruno says

    @Francis: Forget Hannon & Saland. Hannon has already called himself a “no” vote and is likely just along as a consultant. Saland, as you can see in the NY Times article I posted above, is actually the lawyer who is seeing this vulnerability of religious institutions and is driving the conversation from the technical legal area. These guys are approaching as a bloc and demanding a compromise…it is no up to our side (i.e. Cuomo) to decide whether or not their demands are doable.

  21. MiddleoftheRoader says

    Lanza’s position is internally inconsistent, and it makes a mockery of all discrimination laws. According to the TU quote: :We wouldn’t want to create a situation where people’s religious beliefs are threatened or challenged by something we do here,” said Sen. Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island. “There’s no middle ground, we want to get it right…If you get it wrong, you expose our religious organizations to litigation, and we shouldn’t do that.”

    As far as religious ORGANIZATIONS go, the SSM bill specifically exempts them from any coverage; they can deny services, facilities, etc.

    As far as “people’s religious beliefs”, the discrimination laws do NOT allow “people’s religious beliefs” to justify discrimination in providing commercial goods or services. A taxi driver cannot refuse to drive an inter-racial couple (or their guests) to their wedding because “racial mixing” is against his religious views; a motel owner cannot refuse to rent rooms to guests attending the wedding of an inter-faith couple because she thinks that “marrying outside the faith” is against her religious views. It should be no different for same-sex marriages — individuals and businesses that offer commercial services should not be allowed to refuse those services in connection with same-sex marriages based on their religious beliefs. If you allow this, then you open a loophole in the discrimination laws that makes those laws meaningless. Is Lanza really going to allow the taxi driver to refuse to drive guests to a same-sex marriage, or allow the motel owner to refuse to rent rooms to guests attending a same-sex marriage? Pathetic!

    ON THE OTHER HAND, IF Lanza is really saying that INDIVIDUALS who work for RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS that refuse services should not be found personally liable when they refuse — as part of the RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION’s refusal — to provide those services, well that’s fine (employees of the Knights of Columbus or of the local church which are allowed to deny facilities and services for same-sex marriage). If you’re going to exempt these religious organizations, then you need to protect their employees. BUT THE “RELIGIOUS BELIEF’ EXEMPTION CANNOT APPLY TO INDIVIDUALS WHO OWN OR WORK FOR COMMERCIAL ESTABLISHMENTS THAT WANT TO DISCRIMiNATE.

    Lanza needs to ‘man up’ to the fact that he simply doesn’t support marriage equality. He’s dissembling, and using the ‘religious exemption’ as an excuse. History will treat him poorly if he really follows through with his “line in the sand”. And Skelos will be running the Senate minority after the next election if he doesn’t let this come up for a vote

  22. Tony says

    I think my sense is that the republicans on the fence including Senator Lanza are scared and need to educate themselves about what the anti-discrimination laws in NY are and how it relates to marriage for gay couples. It happened with the democrats in 2009 and they got thru it (except Diaz). We are just asking for a marriage license, that’s it. NY recognizes out-of-state marriages and according to a recent report by the Williams Institute there are an estimated 9,000 same-sex married couples living in NY (according to the 2010 census) and I haven’t seen or heard of claims or violations of religious liberties that these senators are raising enough to change the human rights laws. And, any adoption agency including Catholic Charities cannot discriminate in NY based on sexual orientation whether married or not. Maybe, they just need the governor to hold their hands while they vote the right way–meaning yes.

  23. searunner says


    Thanks for the NYT link. Hopefully, Saland is just trying to flesh out the existing religious protections in the current, that the employees of religious organizations and such cannot be subject to a lawsuit. If Saland is asking for more, then there is no room for negotiation. Cuomo and marriage equality advocates would be better served by using the marriage equality issue to help recapture the NY State Senate in 2012.

    I’m continually baffled by the GOP in NY on marriage equality. 2012 is a presidential election year, NY is very blue and the turnout will be higher. The Senate districts will be redrawn, and if I’m not mistaken Upstate will lose seats and Downstate will gain seats. Maintaining the slim majority in the senate will be difficult enough. Does the GOP really want to have to defend their position on marriage equality in 2012?

    And I don’t believe stalling the bill in the Senate is really an option. I mean they could refuse to bring the bill to the vote, but to what gain? It’s clear to everyone in NY and the country that the GOP are the ones holding up passage. They can’t hide behind Democratic defections like 2009. Failure to pass marriage equality, whether in a vote or by refusing to bring the bill for a vote will rest squarely on the GOP’s shoulders.

    I suspect the bill will pass, barely and with fleshed out religious protection amendments. If not, the GOP can, in all likelihood, kiss their majority good-bye and they will see either 2009 or the 2011 bill in 2013, and they will have no way to prevent its passage.

  24. walter says

    if they get the concessions they will want something else. let these clowns remember this country was founded on separation of church and state. if churches want to run peoples lives make them pay taxes like the rest of us.

  25. Bruno says

    @searunner: Yeah, I think it’s important to realize that what Saland and Lanza are asking for may *NOT* be as far as Ball publicly asked for. And they may be more open to compromise if it is. We’ll see.

    I don’t know if I’m totally sold on the GOP needing to pass marriage equality or bring it up for a vote to survive. The truth is, while NY state is mostly in favor of equality now, I don’t think most people who are in favor vote on the issue. It would be interesting to see if that’s the case in 2012 if this gets stalled.

    They’ll have to stall it in conference if they feel they lack votes. I don’t believe they’ll want their membership, especially someone like Grisanti, on record with their vote if it isn’t going to pass. Nothing is ideal for them no matter what they do right now.

  26. Patric says

    Another reason that we can’t allow them to gut anti-discrimination laws just to make sure that a bill passes this year is that, if we do, the discrimination-authorizing provisions of the bill will become the new standard for marriage equality bills and you can be sure that they’ll need to be included in each future marriage equality bill in other states in order to secure passage.

    It needs to repeatedly be stated that we didn’t have to be in the position we are in this evening. We could all instead be celebrating victory this evening. Greg Ball defeated a marriage equality supporter by 2,000 votes last November and, in much closer races, Democratic senators and marriage equality supporters Craig Johnson and Andre Thompson lost races which were so close that they weren’t called until well into December. They lost because too many LGBT and progressive voters decided to sit out last November’s election while tea baggers turned out in droves. To all those who frequently say here that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans and that our community would be well served by sitting out elections and withholding support from Democrats, congratulations! You are to blame if we fall one vote short in these coming days.

  27. Francis says

    Thanks for the NYT link, Bruno, and you make excellent points.

    And Patric, you’re so very right. Like 1/3 of gays voted Republican across the country, right? And then the progressives (gay and otherwise) who didn’t vote at all. Liberals across the country dropped the ball and pouted and didn’t get out to vote, didn’t care to vote, and as we’re now seeing time and time again with countless stories of GOP/social conservatives killing and turning back gay rights and other progressive issues, it’s costing us big time.

    Ultimately, being dissatisfied with politics/majority of politicians in this country doesn’t mean you don’t get out and make your voice heard and vote for the people we NEED to see in office to benefit our community and benefit our country.

  28. searunner says


    I think failure to pass marriage equality only makes the GOP task of maintaining the majority in the Senate that much more difficult. The deck is already stacked against them. There’s redistricting to start. The electorate in 2012 will be larger and more progressive than it was in 2010. Add to that the rapidly shifting attitude towards marriage equality and GOP Senators will need to defend their failure to pass marriage equality in a number of districts. It won’t be an issue in all the districts, but it will be an issue in a number of them.

    Everyone knows there are 31 votes, some current GOP Senators will have to explain why they weren’t the 32 vote when they run in 2012. And stalling it conference right now, with 31 votes in support is just as good as voting the bill down. I just don’t see how failing to pass can benefit the GOP in anyway.

    I think their best course is flesh out the religious protections and pass the bill with 4 or 5 votes from their caucus, minimizing the possibility of losing the majority because 1 or 2 Senators were primaried and Democrats picked up the seat in the general.

    As an aside, do you post on JMG as Bruno?

  29. Bruno says

    @searunner: I do post as Bruno from time to time on JMG…I’ve seen you come up there too, now that I think of it.

    I’m not actually from NY, but follow this stuff closely whenever a bill comes up. I may be missing a lot of facts. I’d be curious to know how a GOP senator might become more vulnerable from no vote being held this session on marriage quality. What could marriage equality advocates do to defeat a GOP senator as a result of the inaction? I don’t think just saying that Republicans failed at a marriage equality bill alone would make much difference in most districts with GOP senators, would it? How would that play out?

  30. Bruno says

    Here’s a really good breakdown about the religious exemptions issue. If the piece is accurate, it’s very interesting, because it makes it seem like in some key ways, Cuomo’s bill doesn’t contain as many religious protections as existing laws in NH, DC, & CT. It does at the end point out that the laws that Ball wants regarding individuals are in place nowhere with marriage equality.


  31. Randy says

    So using this guy’s logic, he wants any person whose faith is against gay marriage to be able to not offer services for such. Doesn’t that open the door so that if Jewish people didn’t want to do Christian weddings, or vice versa?… That’s discrimination… so bottom line he wants to legalize discrimination… f*ck him!

  32. MacroT says

    Once again the republicans, with the help of Diaz, have rained on New York’s parade. There is no way a broad discriminatory “compromise” such as this can be approved. It is a bitter pill to swallow.

  33. Omar says

    I think it is fair to put any extra language that religious groups feel would “protect” them from having any hand in gay marriage. Fine! I won’t get married at St. Patricks.. I’ll live, just let me get married if I so choose.

  34. Cody says

    Ugh find a different senator to be the final vote, I am tired of people asking for these damn religious exemptions that are already in the bill. Come on New York, join my state in treating everyone the same haha. And I live in Davenport, Iowa lol.

  35. searunner says

    @ Bruno

    That’s a fair question. To start,The Republicans and Skelos partly created this problem by promising an up and down vote if a marriage equality was presented.

    I think a failure to vote will be seen as the bill being defeated; it’s how the media will report it and how opponents of marriage equality will report it. So, it becomes quite easy to tie those GOP Senators in districts that support marriage equality (and internal GOP polls seem to indicate there are several) with the defeat of marriage equality. If they supported it, why was it defeated with enough votes to pass? Saying we didn’t vote on it only begs the question of why? And then it is back to Skelos and his broken promise

    The 2012 electorate will be larger and more progressive, which after redistricting will make maintaining control of the NY State Senate a tall task. Adding responsibility for the failure to pass marriage equality to the list just adds another hurdle for some GOP State Senators.

  36. Bruno says

    @searunner: Thanks for your response. I guess my feeling is still that I doubt that most voters would care much, even in the districts where marriage equality is supported more than not. I could see this being a strong issue for Grisanti, whose district was never so conducive for a Republican anyway, but I’m having trouble seeing it being a problem for just about anyone else in the current makeup of the Senate. I hope we don’t have to find out anyway.

  37. says

    Religion and all it’s cults are nothing more than a free pass to what amounts to theological terrorism . Religion acts with complete impunity against the intelligence of Mankind. It attempts to keep us dumb, numb and controlled …. It’s a cancer that needs to be cut out so man can become all we are meant to be ….

  38. searunner says


    I think opposition to marriage equality and failure to pass a bill only compounds the structural disadvantages the GOP will face in 2012 in NY. It’s not going to be an easy year already, adding marriage equality to the mix just makes it more difficult.

    As another poster noted, Ball and two other Senators won their seats in a very close election. A larger and more progressive electorate could swing the seat back to Democrats. And in all likelihood control of the Senate. If marriage equality was to pass, those 3 seats all occupied by opponents to marriage equality wouldn’t have to deal with the marriage equality issue.

    Current trends all point to the inevitability of marriage equality, and NY will be there much sooner than other places. It’s just a matter of when.

    If marriage equality is not passed this year, it is imperative that the Democrats running to unseat Republicans are pro-marriage equality.

    Like you, I hope we don’t have to find out. I remain optimistic and will until the legislative session ends.

  39. Oliver says

    Churches are BIG business. They have always had the right to refuse to do business with anyone they choose to. I see no reason why they now need to carve out a special right to refuse to do business with some same-sex couple….­or why the government feels the need to carve this right out for them.

  40. TruthSeeker_Too says

    What an asshat. He says you expose “our religious organizations” to litigation. What about MY religious organization (and others) that is NOT permitted to exercise its beliefs and marry gay couples under NY state law?!??
    Out-of-state gay married couples are ALREADY legally recognized in NY, and yet this litigation situation hasn’t materialized.
    These holdouts are doing the bidding of their Roman Catholic masters. It is sickening to see public officials beholden to Rome.

  41. Randy says

    They cannot get away with calling this “religious protection” or “religious exemption” because what it really is is “religious discrimination” or “religious disregard” or “religious law”.

    Call it what it is. They want to replace the state law with their own.

    These folks want a right to disregard a contract created by the state. Only same-sex marriages would be disregarded in this way, right? You couldn’t refuse to recognize ANY other kind of marriage, just the second-class same-sex ones.

    This must be rejected. It’s not worth it. Get married in a nearby state (or Canada) in the meantime.

  42. says

    I can’t stand these people. They’re just so narcissistic that they want something added into it so they can go, “see, here, I made them do this to make the bill better” for when they go to see what few bigots they have back home (because of course they’re more concerned about the 20% of their district invested in bigotry rather than the 60+% who want full fledged marriage equality). That there already is an extensive exemption for religions is immaterial, as is the fact that marriage equality supporters have no problem with religious exemptions (indeed, most of us support them ourselves). Creeps.

  43. candideinncc says

    They want to write into law the right for religions to discriminated against gays however they wish forever. If someone doesn’t want to rent a room to them because they are gay, that is fine. If they don’t want to sell flowers for their wedding, that is fine. If they don’t want to rent a hall for a wedding, that is fine. Don’t do it. This will perpetuate the discrimination. If it takes one more session of the New York legislature or five, gay marriage will happen. Don’t write the hate into the law.

  44. says

    Less Equality In “Same-sex Marriage”, Making It Equal, But Not Really Equal To Hetero-sex Marriage. This “equal but not equal” at its best.

  45. Rin says

    1) The exemptions are for halls like Jewish Community Centers, Knights of Columbus, etc that are not churches, but religious affiliated halls and auditoriums.

    2) Churches already discriminate against people of different denominations. A Muslim wouldn’t marry two Christians, Jews wouldn’t either, and Baptists won’t marry two Catholics. I’m fine with that because equality is about being able to live your life as you choose, not forcing other people along for the ride (even if for their own good).

    Any church that wouldn’t marry me, I won’t attend.

    I don’t understand the people what want to go to these religious schools or country clubs and then try to change them after the fact. You knew the rules prior. If they are that bad, start your own that is better.

    I don’t join snobby country clubs, I don’t give money to mean people or discriminatory stores, and I wouldn’t send me kids to a school that would be unkind to them.

    I just reward people with my money for good behavior.

  46. kodiak says

    They should also legislate into effect some other clauses: Dress Codes-no wearing of white by gay couples, one member of a gay marriage must identify as ‘the man’ and the other “the woman”, no garters will be tossed, wedding cake must be in sheet form with no frosting, punch must be a big bowl of 7-UP with a half gallon of lime sherbet floating in it, stones are thrown instead of rice, “not really married-married” written on car to escort the couple from the ceremony, all wedding invites must be neon pink to alert str8 couples with young children so they can protect them, no dancing at the reception, etc., etc., etc.

  47. Bruno says

    @searunner: I understand the downside for Republicans, but I guess I should be clearer. There’s a huge downside for them voting this in as well, from their own base of conservative dickheads, and Conservative dickheads as well. Either way it’s risky for them, and I have to wonder if they consider a non-vote riskier than a vote. Oh well, we can theorize about it but we’ll never really know for sure.

    I say make the bill strictly in line with the laws in NH & CT and pitch it back. If that doesn’t work, we’ll have to try again later.