If New Yorkers approve same-sex marriage, Archbishop Timothy Dolan says the Empire State is doomed to become just like China or North Korea.

Say what?!

What in the world is Dolan talking about? In those countries, he says, “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.”

If Dolan had his way, I am guessing he would rather live in a place where the church – specifically his church – dictated those things, instead. I’m sure that if the government defined “family” and “marriage” based on his religious beliefs, he would have no longer have a problem with its “dictatorship.”

Sadly for Dolan, that’s not going to happen and should never happen in a country that believes in the separation of church and state. This new proposal before the New York State legislature is true to this constitutional principle.

The measure, which was approved by the New York House yesterday and is now awaiting approval by the Senate, merely mandates that married same-sex couples have the same rights as married heterosexual couples. It also recognizes religious freedom rights by exempting religious groups and ensuring that a church, temple or synagogue cannot be forced to marry a gay couple.

That seems fair. The government should not base its laws and the definition of marriage solely on any religious group’s doctrines, and religious leaders should be free to perform same-sex marriages, or decide not to, based on their teachings.

Yet Dolan and other religious leaders won’t be happy until our laws codify their religious beliefs.

According to archbishop, “God, not Albany, has settled the definition of marriage a long time ago.”

Yesterday, nearly 100 members of the clergy turned up for “A Rally For Traditional Marriage” in front of City Hall. The rally was organized by City Action Coalition’s leader, Bishop Joseph Mattera, who feels that a “large percentage of people in New York City and state…are very uncomfortable with the concept of gay marriage.”

An even larger percentage, however, supports legalizing same-sex marriage. Fifty-six percent (some polls say even more) of New York voters are in favor of it, according to a Quinnipiac University survey.

But even if that weren’t the case, discomfort for the majority is no reason to deny equal rights to all Americans – or to violate the separation of church and state.

I’m counting on the New York State Senate to know that, too. The measure is expected to be voted on in the Senate today or tomorrow.