No easy peace on gay marriage or the Middle East

Catching up with a few things after — during — a very busy week. (I’ve been reviewing hundreds of state education reports. You don’t want to know.)

1. So Archbishop Dolan is fighting mad at the Obama administration over gay marriage. It’s not just that the administration will not defend the Defense of Marriage Act, but how the administration is characterizing those who oppose gay marriage.

He wrote to Obama: “The institution of marriage is built on this truth, which goes to the core of what the Catholic Bishops of the United States, and the millions of citizens who stand with us on this issue, want for all children and for the common good of society.  That is why it is particularly upsetting, Mr. President, when your Administration, through the various court documents, pronouncements and policies identified in the attached analysis, attributes to those who support DOMA a motivation rooted in prejudice and bias.  It is especially wrong and unfair to equate opposition to redefining marriage with either intentional or willfully ignorant racial discrimination, as your Administration insists on doing.”

A staff analysis from the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference (of which Dolan is president) notes that the Justice Department is comparing the Defense of Marriage Act to racial discrimination laws.

The analysis states bluntly: “According to the government?s view, support for a definition of marriage that recognizes that sexual difference is a defining and valuable feature of marriage now constitutes a forbidden intent to harm a vulnerable class of people.  The false claim that animus is at work ignores the
intrinsic goods of complementarity and fruitfulness found only in the union of man and woman as husband and wife.  DoJ?s contention thus transforms a moral disagreement into a constitutional violation, with grave practical consequences.”

2. On the same subject at the state level, NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asked a state court on Friday to toss a lawsuit filed by an evangelical lobbying group that challenges the state’s gay marriage law.

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms filed the suit in July, contending that the state Senate broke its own procedural rules before its closely watched vote approving same-sex marriage.

According to the AP: “In his motion to dismiss, Schneiderman relies heavily on the separation of powers to argue the court shouldn’t get involved in matters “wholly internal” to the legislature. He also contends the various meetings between executive and legislative branch members, lobbyists and other interested parties were proper under the open meetings law.”

Also, a short article on the NYCF website makes the case that town clerks who have religious objections to same-sex marriage should not have to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. They are standing behind Rose Marie Belforti, Ledyard town clerk in Cayuga County, who apparently wouldn’t issue a license to a lesbian couple.

NYCF states: “They’re putting legal pressure on Mrs. Belforti to sign same-sex “marriage” licenses, but Rose Belforti is standing tall. We know that the fragrance of Rose’s act of obedience is a sweet smell to her Savior.”

3. As the U.N. wrestles today with whether to create a Palestinian state — and all that would mean — the Jewish Week writes about a recent meeting of local Israelis and Palestinians right here in Yonkers.

The meeting was apparently called by the Dialogue Project, “a 10-year-old venture to build relationships between different ethnic and religious groups.”

Dergham Alkhatib, 43, who spent much of his childhood in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, told the Jewish Week that he was “conditioned to hate Jews.” Now he says: ““We have to overcome this miserable history, instead of looking at all Palestinians as terrorists and all Zionists as people who want to steal Palestinian homes.”

After Alkhatib talked about his concern that Palestinian refugees will be taken care of, the JW described what happened:

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But Alkhatib’s comment drew an emotional response from Cari Gardner, 66, who said any reference to refugees or a Palestinian “right of return” is something that “triggers” her. She has no idea what “right of return” means, she told Alkhatib, known to friends as Leo. Does it mean that all Palestinian refugees should return, she asked, and, if so, to where — to the West Bank or to within Israel’s pre-1967 borders? Finally, she asked, can’t the refugees simply go on with their lives?

That, in turn, drew an emotional response from Lori, an American convert to Islam whose late husband was Palestinian. Turning to Gardner, Lori said that, while she understands her concern, she likens the feelings of Israelis who fear a massive influx of Palestinian refugees to the feelings of Palestinians in 1948 who witnessed a massive influx of Jews. “How did they feel seeing all these people coming in?” she asked.

Some might see such exchanges, especially between people who know and like each other, as a dismal sign. And many Jews and Muslims believe that such dialogues achieve little, if anything, and serve only to legitimize abhorrent points of view.

Nevertheless, members of the Yonkers group said participating in the dialogue over the years has changed their perception of the other group.

Two Christian groups oppose no-fault divorce

I was kind of stunned the other day to learn that New York is the only state without a no-fault divorce law.

I guess I would have expected a few states in more traditional parts of the country to be sticklers when it comes to “preserving” marriage.

Two days ago, the NY state Senate voted 32-29 to allow “no-fault” divorce after a marriage has “irretrievably” broken down for at least six months. The Assembly is expected to go along.

Right now, one spouse must allege abandonment, adultery or one of a few other reasons in order to seek a divorce.

The only religious group that I have heard react to the Senate passage is the NYS Catholic Conference, which is predictably opposed to any changes that would make divorce more common.

Executive Director Richard Barnes released this statement:

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The Bishops of New York State are disappointed with the Senate action today. Increasingly, society has come to view marriage as disposable and temporary. However, empirical evidence shows that children of divorce tend to suffer many negative consequences throughout their lives, from lower educational achievement rates to higher rates of substance abuse, criminal behavior and imprisonment.

Clearly, not every marriage can be permanent. But when serious reasons exist, such as abuse, adultery or abandonment, the law provides for quick divorces. In cases where no such grounds are present, so-called “no fault” cases, a couple may divorce following a one-year legal separation. The state has a legitimate interest in such a waiting period, where reconciliation is still a feasible possibility, because of the important place of marriage in society, particularly as it relates to the stable rearing of children.

New York State has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. While we see that as a cause for state pride, some sadly may see it as a problem to be corrected. We urge the state Assembly to reject this proposal and, failing that, we call on Gov. Paterson to veto it.

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New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical lobbying group in Albany, has not released a statement on the Senate vote (that I have been able to find).

But the group does have a position on no-fault divorce, which is basically that we’re better off without it. Their position includes this statement about divorce:

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Any divorce, regardless if it occurred under fault or no-fault laws, is one of life’s most painful experiences. It signifies the failure of a dream—a dream of intimacy, of family, of security, of meaning. The consequences of divorce can therefore be severe, not only economically, but particularly physically, emotionally and psychologically.

It would seem logical, therefore, that with the massive increases in divorce rates, the rate of children involved in divorce, and the social consequences of the divorce epidemic, that the Legislature would be looking for ways to strengthen marriages not make divorces easier to obtain.

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I have not been able to find any statements in favor of no-fault divorce from religious groups.

I checked the website of Interfaith IMPACT of New York, a coalition of leaders from liberal religious traditions, but did not come across any mention of divorce.