The GOP's offices in Albany must have seemed like an outpost of the Vatican this week.
First Archbishop Timothy Dolan sent GOP Majority Leader Dean Skelos a widely reported warning salvo - calling in to an Albany radio show to claim that the marriage equality bill currently under consideration by the Senate could infringe on religious freedom.
Then, to underline his alarm, Dolan sent Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn to visit Skelos' in his office on Friday morning.
Dolan, who spent the week expressing himself like a terrified protagonist in a cold-war espionage film, added:
'Last time I consulted an atlas, it is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America – not in China or North Korea. In those countries, government presumes daily to 'redefine' rights, relationships, values, and natural law. There, communiqués from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of 'family' and 'marriage' means.'
Wait, who does that remind you of, Archbishop?
In fact, as Dolan knows, the Marriage Equality bill exempts all religious institutions from solemnizing same-sex weddings and offering their private facilities for celebrations. This means no gay couples will be storming into churches, temples and mosques to force spiritual leaders to marry them.
So Archbishop, if you have a strong objection, isn't it always better to ensure that it's based in fact?
It's not difficult to appreciate Dolan's concerns about an arrangement that challenges his faith - and, more to the point, his political influence - but he does himself no favors by overplaying his hand.
On Friday Dolan warned that the proposed marriage equality legislation posed an 'ominous threat' to society.
Really, Archbishop? Have you been to Connecticut lately? Here's what will actually happen: gay couples will finally avail of the same legal rights and entitlements that heterosexual couples take for granted.
Here's what will not happen, Archbishop: the zombie apocalypse.
It's a measure of Dolan's inability to win his own argument or even offer a convincing counterpoint that he's had to frame the debate in scare quotes and absurdly overheated language.
The truth is the New York State Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm of the Catholic Church here, has no intention of supporting a marriage equality bill no matter what the religious exemptions are.
'Our beliefs should not be viewed as discrimination against homosexual people,' Dolan, in a moment of sheer surrealism, added. But this is obvious nonsense: if you try to limit someone's behavior without actually protecting them or anybody else from anything, it's an attack.
'The Church affirms the basic human rights of gay men and women, and the state has rightly changed many laws to offer these men and women hospital visitation rights, bereavement leave, death benefits, insurance benefits, and the like.'
So, there you have it. In the Archbishops view gay people constitute about three fifths of a human being, and they ought to be satisfied.