Friday, January 12, 2007

Priests Forced to...Nothing

The shocking word from New Jersey is that nothing much has changed for ministers, priests, rabbis and other clerics. Following the legalization of same-sex civil unions, religious types now have one additional option in solemnizing marriages recognized by the Garden State -- they can, should they consent, perform such ceremonies for homosexual couples.

It is even worth writing about because the state attorney general iterated that this was an option for them, and not a requirement. Likewise, civil servants do not have the option of refusing; it is part of their job.

Despite the panic-mongering asserting that legalizing civil unions or same-sex marriages would bring enforced endorsement of such abominations to their sects, it is not so. It is not so in New Jersey. It is not so in Connecticut. It is not so in Vermont. It is not so in Massachusetts. It is not so in Canada.

The AP reminds us that as of February 19th, Jersey homosexual couples can apply for marriage licenses. After a three-day waiting period, they can have their union solemnized by a public official, like a justice of the peace, or any recognized cleric.

You would think at some point, the anti-gay/anti-same-sex-marriage folk would be ashamed to lie so blatantly. Not yet. No matter how many times their prophesies of doom and pagan slavery fail, they keep at it.

In fact, it is not only the wingers who are infected with such fantasies. The medium-sized Bergen Record likely has a Roman Catholic editor writing headlines, including the one on this story reading AG delivers a setback for civil unions. Of course, that's not what the article says, but it appears to reveal the editor's thinking.

There are plenty of open-hearted and open-minded folk, clerics and otherwise, who see civil union solemnization as either a pleasure or a job.
Attorney General Stuart Rabner's clarification simply noted that churches were exempt from anti-discrimination laws on this matter, as they are exempt in hiring and association rules and regulations.

The U.S. and all state constitutions recognize such as protections for religion. It's the law of the land, even in Trenton.

Move along. There's nothing to see here.

On the other hand, a couple of close-hearted and close-headed legislators put the lie to the claims by the anti forces that they will mind their own business if they lose. In Jersey, one (Sen. Henry P. McNamara [R-Wycoff]] wants to let public officials paid by the state or municipalities refuse to perform civil unions. Another (Sen. Gerald Cardinale [R-Cresskill]) wants to define marriage as one-man/one-woman.

However, the pro-equality side is scampering too, even if it is for positive effect in contrast. Assemblyman Red Gusciora (D-Mercer County) wants to add marriage to to civil unions. Also Sen. Joseph V. Doria Jr. (D-Bayonne) and Assemblyman Alfred E. Steele (D-Paterson) would give domestic partners marriage rights and benefits.

While all those percolate (I'm betting the legislature is gun-shy now and won't pass any of those), the government officials who must perform civil unions or stop performing marriages include mayors and other municipal officials who regularly perform such ceremonies now.

Perhaps someone can tell that Record editor that in New Jersey, as in Massachusetts, marriages and there now civil unions are civil contracts and always have been. Clergy also as add-ons get to solemnize these contracts.

However, the state makes the marriage or civil union legal and only the state can dissolve the contract legally. Folk can layer a religious ritual on top of the contract. That's often a satisfying bonus, but by itself is not legally meaningful. Bring the wedding license and enter into the contract.

We are likely to go through this in every state as they slowly come to SSM or civil unions. It seems like people would have gotten this by now.

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