It is no surprise that the Orthodox Union is opposed to same-sex marriage and the legislation approving it that passed this week in the New Jersey State Senate. The subject of homosexuality drives a sharp wedge between Orthodox groups and most members of the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist denominations.
It was a welcome development, therefore, when the OU decided to work with NJ legislators on a compromise that would allow both sides to claim satisfaction, if not victory. Without altering their position one iota, the OU worked with the bill’s sponsors so that the legislation would include protections for religious organizations that oppose “marriage equality.” The compromise ensures that government benefits will not be withheld, nor contracts, services, or tax exemptions revoked, for groups acting upon their religious conscience. Some proponents of gay marriage are not happy with what amounts to a religious exemption, but that is the nature of compromise.
The OU’s reasonable approach was in sharp contrast to the actions of the Catholic leaders who have rejected President Obama’s admittedly belated compromise over federally mandated insurance coverage for family planning services. Under the White House compromise, religiously affiliated employers would not have to pay for contraceptive coverage, while employees could request such services through their insurance companies at no additional cost. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops objects to this compromise, contending that merely offering such coverage, even if they don’t have to pay for it, undermines their religious rights.
It’s unclear how the compromise infringes on anyone’s religious liberty. To lower the heat on this unnecessary controversy, we can only hope that the bishops take a cue from their colleagues at the OU in standing up for their religious convictions — and the spirit of compromise.