Statement regarding lawsuit filed against St. Joseph’s Medical Center
News reports indicate that a female employee of St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers has filed a class-action suit against both the hospital and the insurance company that administers the hospital’s self-insurance plan, claiming a right to spousal benefits for her same-sex partner to whom she is “married” under New York State law. The woman’s attorneys say the class-action nature of the suit is designed to force all such employers across the state to offer the coverage, despite any religious objections. In response to the lawsuit, Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, issued the following statement:
“In 2011, when Governor Andrew Cuomo made the redefinition of marriage his top legislative priority, we warned not only that such action would have negative consequences for society, but also that it would infringe on the religious liberty of Catholic employers. Catholic teaching simply reflects what until recent years was understood universally: marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman.
“These warnings went unheeded, as the same-sex marriage advocates insisted that, as the bill only related to so-called ‘civil marriage,’ it would have no impact on religious institutions. The message was clear: our objections were both silly and far-fetched. Now, one year later, we have seen come to pass exactly what we warned would occur. An individual is suing a Catholic facility, attempting to use the force of law to compel the hospital (and all Catholic employers) to violate their religious beliefs. Ironically this has occurred on the eve of the Fortnight for Freedom, a time designated by the U.S. Bishops to shed light on the increasing threats to religious liberty we and other faiths are facing across the nation.
“As we stated when the law was passed, the so-called ‘religious exemption’ language included in the bill was insufficient to protect religious institutions. We urge the Governor and the Legislature to pass legislation immediately to provide a full religious exemption to this ill-conceived law.
“We also continue to urge other states to use New York’s experience as a cautionary reminder of the true implications of the redefinition of marriage on religious liberty.”