Ken Hamilton


Niagara Falls City Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti was just giddy when she heard the news that the state senate had passed the Marriage Equality bill and that it was whisking its way to lie under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pen to become law.

She saw it as one of the last mountains that Americans must cross so that we all are seen as equal under the law.

But on another mountain stands the Rev. Timothy Brown, who is not excited about the law at all. The mountain upon which he stands is at his church, Mount Zion Baptist, and he feels that the state’s decision is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the good of families everywhere.

Furthermore, Brown has expressed disdain in same-gender groups citing civil rights leaders, such as Martin Luther King. He sees the struggle of African-Americans for equality to be much different than those that desire same-gender unions.

As a result, while Grandinetti is on Goat Island performing her same-gender marriages, Brown and other religious groups will also be there, protesting what they consider to be a slide down the slippery slope of immorality.

I suppose that because this is an opinion column that I am obligated to give one; so, here goes.

I have often heard that we cannot legislate morality, and for some time I believed it to be so. But in New York we just did! Additionally, I have often said that how you come out of a logical argument is going to be largely contingent upon where you entered it.

If we are a nation that is based upon the rights of individuals, then the argument both the rights of man and woman, man and man, and woman and woman unions simply don’t wash with me. What business is it of the state what individuals do in their private lives, and, if it is about equal rights, then any couple, regardless of genders, has more rights than the (unmarried) individuals upon which the nation and state were founded. If the argument was for equal rights, then it would have been fought so that the state would make no law pertaining to marriage at all and compels no one to either honor or sponsor such, such as the founders did for religion.

But, if the argument is on the issue of civil rights, then I fully agree with Brown. The struggle for unqualified minorities is not the same as civil rights for those who have to qualify themselves as a class of minorities. For clarification, unqualified minority means that one can simply look at you and tell that you are not purely of European stock (the majority) and that you do not have to make statements to qualify yourself as a minority.

In the meantime, particularly with the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” policy, it is and was possible to be gay or lesbian and no one knew it unless you told them. Try being black and getting away with that!

There is, however, one thing that any group has in common, and that is what many people have with those who flaunt their sexuality, their ethnicity, or any other stereotypical belief that one has about another, be they black, white, brown, red or yellow.

Again, I say that instead of the state passing a marriage equality law, they should have passed a law that reaffirmed that everyone should be treated the same as individuals. Had they done so, then not only would same-gender marriages have not been an issue, but also, the wife of Amherst’s Dr. James G. Corasanti, whose husband is accused of striking and killing an 18-year old skateboarder and fleeing, would be compelled by a grand jury to testify against that husband, as may their ‘individual’ neighbor, who may or may not know something of the accident, may have to do.

Brown won’t be at Goat Island alone on Monday morning for the 10 a.m. ‘sir-o-monies’. Other churches and religious groups are also planning on a peaceful protest there.

But NOAH, the most active church group in the area will not be present, though some churches and members of their group will be. NOAH spokesperson Lisa Crapnell explains that their organization is congregationally-driven and that they move on what the group brings to the table. “In our last meeting,” she says, “no one came and indicated that they wanted NOAH to move on this particular issue.”

While Brown and other religious leaders rightfully and peacefully protest what they consider an abomination, religious groups, including those like NOAH, must take much of the responsibility for what they consider the legislation of immorality.

NOAH protested what they considered to be the 12-year lack of development by a private developer, NFR, in the downtown footprint of the city; but NOAH’s footprints won’t be seen on Goat Island, along with those of Brown’s. More confusing to me, though, is that the lack of development that NOAH was protesting is the development that now-deceased developer Eddie Cogan, forerunner of NFR, pretty much promised would be geared towards adult’s entertainment. When such development starts, I suppose that NOAH will be encouraging their congregants not to participate in that for which they were protesting.

As I said, where you come out of a logical argument is pretty much contingent upon where you entered. The Crapnell’s, perhaps victims of their own newness, were clearly not here when a 12-year old-or-so girl asked Cogan’s group what would be there for children to do upon the completion of his developments.  One member of Cogan’s group quickly responded, “I hope that you like blackjack.”

In the meantime, while Grandinetti is grinning at the brink of the lively falls, Brown will be looking down as the Biblical character Lott did at the Dead Sea and the destroyed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. But for him, the names likely have changed to Sodom and Goat Island.

Ken Hamilton is a Niagara Falls resident. Contact him at

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