I rejoice with our New York neighbors on the passage of a state law that will make it legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry. I ache for gay and lesbian couples in New Jersey, which came very close two years ago to passing similar legislation. By a close vote New Jersey chose to stick with civil unions -- which is a separate but unequal provision if there ever was one.
What the country is learning, slowly but inexorably, is that marriage for gay and lesbian couples and families strengthens marriage for all couples and families. Relationships marked by fidelity and life-long commitment, and which are protected by law -- as well as blessed by the church, weaves yet another important and necessary thread of support into the social fabric.
Same-gender marriage also exposes the inequity of so-called "traditional" marriage, in which a wedding ceremony was in large measure a contract between two men -- the groom and the father of the bride. When the father of the bride "gave away" his daughter, she surrendered her name, her property and her legal status -- to her husband. With the evolution of marriage -- and particularly with the advent of same-gender marriage, the only surrendering is that of two people giving their love and commitment to each other.
My hope and prayer is that the action in New York will serve as a catalyst for providing the same outcome in New Jersey. Many in the Garden State will redouble their efforts to promote marriage equality. I will join them.
I am reminded by an insight made some sixty years ago by Reinhold Niebuhr, a remarkable theologian who in many ways served as our culture's post-war conscience: the human capacity for justice makes democracy possible; and the human capacity for injustice makes democracy necessary.
I hope and pray for the continued unfolding of democracy, the evolution of marriage -- and the freedom and equality that are the hallmarks of each.