Jewish groups mixed on N.Y. approval of same-sex marriages


(JTA) — Jewish groups came down on both sides of the New York State government’s vote to approve same-sex marriages.

The Anti-Defamation League called the Marriage Equality Act "a significant step forward in the pursuit of individual liberty and freedom from discrimination for New Yorkers."

The Orthodox Union said in a statement, however, that it was "a mistake" to enact the legislation in New York.

"Consistent with our tradition and Jewish religious principles, we oppose the redefinition of marriage and the state sanction of same-sex marriages," the OU said.

The measure approved June 24 included exemptions for religious organizations, which would protect nonprofit organizations, businesses and individuals from being forced to acknowledge same-sex marriages.

It passed the New York State Senate by a vote of 33-29 and the Assembly by a vote of 36-26. A key vote was cast by state Sen. Stephen Saland, a Jewish Republican.

The OU said in its statement that it was "grateful" for the exemptions.

"Just as we, in a democratic, pluralistic society do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others, same-sex marriage, now the law in New York, must not infringe on anyone’s religious liberties," the OU said.

"Sadly, in too many states, those acting on their religious beliefs have seen government benefits withheld, government funds, contracts and services denied and privileges such as tax exemptions revoked. New York’s law ensures that will not happen here and employers, social service providers and houses of worship are free to uphold their faith.

"We are particularly thankful to the well-meaning and passionate advocates on both sides of this issue who recognized the need for such far reaching exemptions."

Ron Meier, ADL’s New York regional director, said the bill’s impact will resonate far beyond state lines.

"All citizens should be entitled to the same rights, protections and benefits, regardless of their sexual orientation," Meier said in a statement. "That includes the right for same-sex couples to marry.  At the same time, we are pleased that this decision leaves intact the right of religious communities to decide for themselves what relationships they will recognize."

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