Update on Key Issues
Our Office has been tracking a number of major legislative and judicial actions that affect the public policy priorities of the Church.
Conscience Protection/HHS Mandate
Religious Organizations -- Numerous cases have been filed by dioceses and religious organizations that cannot comply with the HHS Mandate due to their religious beliefs. The majority of these cases decided so far have resulted in the issuance of injunctions against enforcement of the mandate, including a case brought by the Archdiocese.
For-Profit Businesses -- On March 25, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument on two cases (Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood) involving the religious liberty rights of for-profit businesses that cannot comply with the HHS Mandate due to their religious beliefs. A decision is expected in late June.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops supports the defense of religious liberty rights in these lawsuits. For an overview of all the cases, see this page maintained by the Becket Fund, a public interest law firm that specializes in religious liberty.
Defense of Marriage -- Numerous cases are proceeding in state and federal courts around the nation, asking courts to hold that the recognition of same-sex "marriages" is required by the Constitution. The United Conference of Catholic Bishops supports the ability of states to maintain the authentic definition of marriage.
Religious Freedom and Same-Sex "Marriage" -- The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a New Mexico case, in which a photographer was fined for declining to provide services for a same-sex commitment ceremony. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops supports religious liberty rights of individuals and private businesses.
Restrictions on Free Speech at Abortion Clinics -- The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case from Massachusetts, in which the state prohibited pro-life speech within a hard buffer zone around abortion clinics. A decision is pending. The United Conference of Catholic Bishops supports the effort to overturn this law.
Pregnancy Centers -- On January 17, 2014, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision that partially upheld, and partially struck down, the New York City law that would subjected pregnancy support centers to burdensome regulations and potentially heavy penalties. The Archdiocese opposed this law.
Federal Legislative Issues
Respect for Rights of Conscience Act -- This will ensure that participants in the health care system "retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions." The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops supports this bill.
New York State Issues
Abortion Expansion Plan -- This radical pro-abortion bill, which would expand abortion rights and eliminate any reasonable regulations, was approved by the Assembly as part of a larger "Women's Equality Act", but an attempt to add it as an amendment to an unrelated bill was defeated in the Senate. The Governor supported this bill in his State of the State Message. The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation. For more information, go to the webpage of New Yorkers for Life.
Surrogate Parenting -- Efforts are being made to overturn current New York law that invalidates any contract for surrogate parenting -- arrangements in which a woman bears a child for someone else, and is compensated. Hearings are being held by the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, considering whether any changes in the law are justified. The New York State Catholic Conference opposes any effort to legalize surrogate parenting contracts.
To take action on these bills -- Go to the New York State Catholic Conference Action Center.
Local Advocacy Initiatives
We encourage regular correspondence with legislators, and particularly we urge people to become regular visitors to local district offices. We are available to help parishioners plan and prepare these local advocacy activities.