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Marriage Equality in NJ: Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

Like many, I am deeply disappointed that the State Senate voted down marriage equality last Thursday. Three months ago, those who profess to divine the political winds were confident that it would pass – and New Jersey would join the ranks of states that permit same-gender marriage.

It didn’t.

Two weeks ago I spent the better part of a morning with a legislator who said to our small group that while he was personally in favor of marriage equality, his constituency was not; and he was not willing to create a political problem for himself by voting for it. This summer at General Convention, a group of 25 bishops met informally late one evening and early the next morning to see if we could come up with a resolution that would honor the disparity of political opinions and theological perspectives that we held regarding human sexuality. We were honest and fair with each other. One bishop – who was opposed to same gender blessings and to electing a gay or lesbian priest to be bishop, said that he knew this was all coming eventually, but asked if we could please slow it down a little.

The state slowed it down; the General Convention of the Episcopal Church took a step in moving it forward. At least a little. I do believe that full equality for all people whose relationships are marked by fidelity and commitment is coming eventually – at least in the Episcopal Church and in the state of New Jersey; and many of us will continue to work in each arena to bring that about. That, I suppose, is some consolation, but – as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently stated years ago: “justice delayed is justice denied”.


Query: Would gay marriage equality mean that the state could mandate that pastors, rectors, ministers of the gospel, priests, etc. musst perform services for such unions?

Mack Harrell
West Orange, NJ

Mack, the defeated legislation the Bishop is referring to, S1967, also titled the "Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act," stated in part:

"No member of the clergy of any religion authorized to solemnize marriage and no religious society, institution or organization in this State shall be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or by Article I, paragraph 4 of the New Jersey Constitution."

See for the full text.

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