New York state Senator Mark Grisanti (R, North Buffalo) joined three other Republicans voting for the Marriage Equality Act Friday evening. The bill passed on a bipartisan vote of 33-29 and has already been signed into law by Governor Cuomo.
Sen. Grisanti, a Roman Catholic, was the very picture of integrity last night as he described how careful consideration of the facts led him to support the bill. “I would not respect myself if I didn’t do the research, have an open mind and make an informed decision based on the information before me. A man can be wiser today than yesterday, but there’ll be no respect for that man if he has failed in his duty to do the work,” he said during the floor debate.
Kudos to Sen. Grisanti for exercising his duty as a lawmaker with integrity rather than subjugating that duty to his personal beliefs. Last night, Sen. Grisanti joined the solid majority of Catholic Americans who support marriage equality.
As you may know prior to me coming here — it’s only been about 6 months — and the issue of same-sex marriage was never really a strong topic of discussion among family and friends. I simply opposed it in the Caholic sense of my upbringing.
And I have stated that I have a problem with the term marriage. But at the same time I also said that I have a problem with the rights that are involved that are being overlooked.
I have never in the past four months researched an issue or met with so many people and groups on a single issue such as this. I have struggled with this immensely, I can tell you that. I have read numerous documents, independent studies, talked with a lot of people on both sides of this issue.
As a Catholic I was raised to believe that marriage was between a man and a woman. I’m not here however as a senator who is just Catholic. I’m also here with a background as an attorney, through which I look at things and I apply reason.
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I know that with this decision, many people who voted for me will question my integrity a short time ago. I tell you though that I have studied this issue. For those that know me, they know that I have struggled with it.
To those whose support I may lose, please know that in the past what I was telling you, and what I believed at that time was the truth. But by doing the research and ultimately doing what I believe to be the right thing, to me shows integrity.
I would not respect myself if I didn’t do the research, have an open mind and make a decision — an informed decision — based on the information before me. A man can be wiser today than yesterday, but there’ll be no respect for that man if he has failed in his duty to do the work.
I cannot legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage. Who am I to say that someone does not have the same rights that I have with my wife who I love, or that have the 1300-plus rights that I share with her?
But there’s another important point here that this bill brings up, and that’s its religious protections. Because I am Catholic. Under this bill the religious aspects and belief are protected as well as for not-for-profits. There’s no mandate that the Catholic Church or any other religious organization perform ceremonies or rent halls. There cannot be a civil claim or an action against the church. It protects benevolent organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and many others. And as a lawyer I feel confident that the religious organizations and the others are protected.
We in this state have recognized same-sex couples who are married in other states and are now in New York. I have read studies about civil unions that show that they do not work, and causes chaos. I believe this state needs to provide equal rights and protection to all of its residents.
I struggled with the word marriage as between a man and a woman — that’s how I’m raised. But I also struggle with the rights that are lacking for same-sex couples, and I’ve stated this numerous times. I cannot deny that right or opportunity for someone nor stand in the way of allowing them to obtain the rights that I have.
I’m not going to get into the philosophical arguments, because I’ve heard them all. But for me the issue boils down to this. I’ve done the research, and my belief that a person can be wiser today than yesterday. I apologize to those who feel offended, to those who I have hurt with the votes I had six months ago, but I believe you can be wiser today than yesterday when you do the work.
I cannot deny a person, a human being, a tax payer, a worker or people in my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is, the same rights that I have with my wife. And I also can’t ignore that one of the things that was put into this bill, that there are protections in this bill for church and religious organizations. And I am proud of that because I am fearful that those protections may be lost. If this bill fails, I believe that next time around these protections won’t be there.
I vote in the affirmative, Mr. President.