New Jersey Legalizes Marriage Equality, as Catholics Rejoice

October 24, 2013

New Jersey became the 14th state to legalize marriage equality on Monday, and it appears marriages will continue unhindered by further legal challenges. The road to this victory was paved by Catholics on both sides, and could be indicative of  future Catholic influences.

Governor Chris Christie, a Catholic, ended his appeal in the state’s Supreme Court against the late September ruling by Judge Mary Jacobson, also a Catholic, that legalized same-gender marriages. According to Christie, the Court’s previous denial of his request to forestall marriage licenses until the appeal was heard was evidence enough that marriage equality would be upheld on appeal.

While the governor promised to uphold the law, he also criticized the judicial means through which the state achieved equal marriage rights. As Bondings 2.0 previously noted, Christie is a 2016 presidential hopeful and is walking the Republican tight-rope around marriage equality. He emphasized the issue should still be put to New Jersey voters.

Jacobson’s was the first state court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June. The move extended hundreds of tax, medical and other legal benefits to same-sex couples, but only in states that provided them “lawful marriages.” As a state which had civil unions but not full marriage for same-gender couples, New Jersey was left out of reaping these benefits, the Supreme Court ruled.

New Ways Ministry‘s supporters in New Jersey have welcomed the news of marriage equality coming to the state. Melina Waldo, the mother of a gay son, stated:

Melina Waldo

“Marriage equality has triumphed in New Jersey after many years of hard work by gay and lesbian people and their supporters.  We suffered defeats and disappointments along the way and strong opposition from the Catholic hierarchy as well as a veto by governor Christie.  Although the bishops did their utmost to hold back the tide of equality, the Catholic people never wavered in their support.  In fact, the percentage of Catholic people who support marriage equality has risen steadily as the years went by.  Not an insignificant factor in heavily Catholic New Jersey.

“I am so happy for all our gay and lesbian residents of New Jersey, particularly for young people like my friend John who testified at the state senate at least twice.   His testimony ended with the lament that he felt like a second-class citizen in his own state.

“For me the journey to marriage equality began years ago when my friends Diane Marini and Marilyn Maneeley  asked me to accompany them to the Borough Hall in our town where they were going to apply for a marriage license.  They were among seven couples chosen by Lambda Legal to sue the state of New Jersey for the right to marry.  When the clerk politely refused their request, we walked out and the lawsuit began.

“So for us it is a time to rejoice but a sad time as well because Marilyn did not live to see the results of her courageous effort to reach this happy conclusion.  She would be so pleased for all those who will benefit in the future. “

Dugan McGinley

Dugan McGinley, a lecturer in Catholic Studies at Rutgers University and the author of  Acts of Faith, Acts of Love: Gay Catholic Autobiographies as Sacred Textssaid:

“I am awestruck when I think how far we have come in such a short amount of time. When we were organizing to make LGBT Catholic concerns visible during the papal visit to Denver 20 years ago, who would have thought that by 2013, fourteen states would have legalized same-sex marriage?!

“It is gratifying to be receiving congratulatory notes from friends on this occasion, but we have all played a role in this success. I am grateful to every LGBT person who has had the courage to be open with someone else about their identity. The biggest difference we all can make is being visible so that people see that laws and theology about sex and gender affect real people.”

While it is already known that large majorities of US Catholics support marriage equality, of note in New Jersey is the respectful acceptance even Catholics opposed to LGBT rights have shown.  It is clear that Catholics in government, like Judge Jacobson and Governor Christie, are acting in a spirit of authentic religious liberty by separating their personal views from those demands required of them by civil law. In addition, fellow parishioners at Judge Jacobson’s parish spoke to NJ.com with a moderated opposition:

“McKillup and several other St. Mary parishioners interviewed after Mass said they believed in the separation of church and state, and that it was understandable Jacobson might view an issue differently from the bench than from a pew…

“St. Mary’s parishioner and choir member Barbara Paige said she shared the Catholic Church’s official view that marriage is between a man and a woman. But putting herself in Jacobson’s shoes, Paige said she did not fault the judge for ruling in favor of marriage equality…

“Another parishioner at St. Mary, Ben Barsolona, said he was opposed to same-sex marriage. But Barsolona, 55, said he did not fault Jacobson for the ruling, and he sympathized with gay couples and individuals.”

With New Jersey, one-third of US states now have equal marriage rights and this number should grow soon. Personal opposition remains in many Catholics, but perhaps beliefs promoted by the bishops that marriage equality will create social ills or threaten the Church’s well-being are being discarded as they are proven false. While work remains in the Church to create broader acceptance of LGBT people and their families, could New Jersey signal an ending to Catholic political opposition against equal rights?

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: September 10, 2013

September 10, 2013

NewsHere are some items that you may find of interest:

1) William Hudson, who resigned his position at Totino-Grace High School, a Minneapolis Catholic school, because of his committed relationship with another man, has found a new job, reports Minnesota.cbs.local.com.  Hudson, who in the past had a top level position at the National Catholic Education Association, will become the director of institutional advancement at Mounds Park Academy, a non-denominational school in St. Paul, Minnesota.

2) New Jersey’s new law banning reparative therapy to try to change one’s homosexual orientation is being challenged in federal court by a group of Christian counselors, according to Religion News ServiceThe law was signed by N.J.’s Catholic governor, Chris Christie, who has been praised for his measure by a Catholic writer on America magazine’s blog. 

3) Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George said he doesn’t believe that it is inevitable that same-sex marriage will be legalized in Illinois, where a bill is still being considered in the state legislature.  In an interview with The Chicago Sun-TimesGeorge said he did not think that legislators had enough votes to pass the bill.   Mark Brown, the writer who interviewed the cardinal, wrote a second piece on George’s views on marriage where he included much more extensive quotes.

4) Last weekBondings 2.0 reported on Hawaii’s Bishop Larry Silva writing a strongly worded pastoral letter opposing that state’s proposed marriage equality law.   CivilBeat.com took apart the bishop’s argument, including debunking his claim that marriage equality will cause more youth suicides.  You can read their entire analysis here.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Governor Chris Christie Must Choose on LGBT Equality

August 24, 2013

Governor Chris Christie

New Jersey’s passage of a law  advancing LGBT rights is raising questions about Governor Chris Christie because of 2016 presidential campaign potential. While several states have passed marriage equality and  LGBT protections under Catholic leadership, Christie’s unique path of moderation leaves some hopeful and others disappointed. Either way, delaying much longer on LGBT equality is no longer an option for the governor.

Governor Christie signed the law on Monday, which bans ‘conversion’ therapy and other attempts at changing a youth’s sexual orientation by those with state licenses. Christie, who is a Republican, said the protection of LGBT youth from harm is the spirit behind this bill, as reported in newstimes.com:

“In signing the ban, Christie reiterated his belief that people are born gay and homosexuality is not a sin, a position he first stated in a 2011 interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan

“Christie said on ‘issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards,’ citing a litany of potential ill effects of trying to change sexual orientation, including depression, drug abuse and suicide.

” ‘I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate,’ he said.”

Opponents of the law claimed the ban overrides parental choice and suppresses their First Amendment rights, and U.S. Catholic reports at least one group plans to file a lawsuit.

As much as this ban on ‘conversion’ therapy is a step forward, LGBT advocates in New Jersey are also dissatisfied with Christie because of his failure to support marriage equality. The Washington Post reports on his mixed record:

“Christie vetoed same-sex marriage legislation last year and severely criticized the Supreme Court’s decision striking down a ban on federal rights for same-sex married couples. At the same time, he is ‘adamant’ that same-sex couples deserve equal legal protection, wants a referendum on gay marriage, and vows to abide by a same-sex marriage law if New Jersey voters approve it.”

New Jersey voters overwhelmingly support equal rights, including marriage, but future aspirations mean Christie is walking a fine line. The governor must appeal to conservative voters in the Republican presidential primaries, ensure more liberal New Jersey voters reelect him next year, and also appeal to swing voters in the middle throughout. As political pundits and campaigners calculate what it might take for  Christie to win three years from now, the governor should instead look to his  faith for guidance.

Catholics in government are called to pursue the common good of all people, including the LGBT community, which means advancing justice through the law. Christie might hope he can wait out the debate on marriage and remain essentially neutral, but marriage equality is having its moment. The sweeping victories for LGBT rights will seemingly continue and Christie must choose now, rather than later the side which he will take. As the nation commemorates fifty years since the March on Washington, I offer the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. for all Catholic politicians who have yet to commit fully to LGBT equality:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

What do you think? Will Chris Christie answer the Gospel’s call and fully embrace LGBT rights? Will he become worse on the issue as 2016 approaches? Leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Good News in Maryland, Bad News in New Jersey

February 18, 2012

Governor Martin O'Malley is congratulated by Maryland Delegates after the historic marriage equality vote. (NY Times photo)

Yesterday, the Maryland House of Delegates approved a marriage equality bill, virtually guaranteeing it would become law, since the bill is likely to pass the Senate, and Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic, has promised to sign it.

Yesterday in New Jersey, however, Governor Chris Christie, a Catholic, vetoed that state’s marriage equality bill which had passed both Assembly and Senate.  The legislature has until January 2014 to override the veto.

MARYLAND

The Baltimore Sun report rightly noted O’Malley’s role in the bill’s success in Maryland, and quoted him saying:

“We are a good people. We all want the same things for our kids.”

The Washington Blade’s story carried a quote from O’Malley that reflected the Catholic social teaching principle behind the issue of marriage equality:

“Today, the House of Delegates voted for human dignity.”

Earlier this week, The Baltimore Sun carried a news report on a talk O’Malley gave in which he described the evolution of his thinking on marriage equality.  New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick is quoted in that article about her thoughts to O’Malley’s support of the issue. Sister Gramick said:

“I’m proud of him for being a Catholic and for witnessing real Catholic values. … I’m so glad he’s supporting the marriage equality bill.”

Last night, Bondings 2.0 posted New Ways Ministry’s response to the vote, along with a link to The Washington Post article about the news.

Even after the bill would become a law, the struggle would still not be over, as opponents have promised to mount a referendum campaign

NEW JERSEY

Governor Chris Christie (NY Times Photo)

In The New York Times account of Christie’s veto, they explain that

“The governor’s veto was conditional, asking the State Legislature to amend the bill, so that rather than legalizing same-sex marriages, it would establish an overseer to handle complaints that the state’s five-year-old civil union law did not provide gay and lesbian couples the same protections that marriage would.

“Mr. Christie also affirmed his call for the Legislature to put a referendum on same-sex marriage on the ballot in November. . . .

“At the same time, Mr. Christie repeated what the State Supreme Court said in 2006 — that same-sex couples deserve the same benefits enjoyed by married couples. Answering testimony that same-sex couples in civil unions had more trouble than married couples in matters like obtaining mortgages and making health care decisions, the governor said he wanted to set up a new ombudsman to make sure gay and lesbian couples did not suffer discrimination.”

Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, responded in the Times story to the ombudsman idea by calling it

““the equivalent of gold-plating a separate water fountain for a specific class of people.”

In a posting two days ago, Bondings 2.0 noted that Washington State’s Catholic governor Christine Gregoire, who this week signed a marriage equality bill into law, sent a letter to fellow Catholic Christie, offering to discuss her evolution on the issue. Christie had not responded.

In their editorial column, the Times opined about “Governor Christie’s Misguided and Intolerant Veto,”

“Sadly, there was no surprise to Gov. Chris Christie’s veto on Friday of the same-sex marriage bill that cleared New Jersey’s Assembly and Senate this week. Mr. Christie had said all along that he would block the measure as soon as it reached his desk. That does not change the message of intolerance or lessen the pain for gay residents and their families. Mr. Christie compounded the insult when he dismissed the Legislature’s support for the rights of gay people as merely ‘an exercise in theater.’ The only one who deserves that accusation is Governor Christie, who is clearly pandering to his own conservative base. . . .

“This isn’t about theater and shouldn’t be about politics. Marriage equality is a basic right.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Tyler Clementi’s Catholic Cousin Speaks Tearfully for Marriage Equality in N.J.

February 4, 2012
Suicide of Tyler Clementi

Tyler Clementi

Perhaps the most moving Catholic testimony in support of marriage equality comes from Jennifer Ehrentraut-Segro, cousin of the late Tyler Clementi, whose suicide in 2010 because of vicious anti-gay bullying sparked a national movement to end bullying.  Ehrentraut-Segro, in front of the New Jersey Assembly Judiciary committee hearing on that state’s marriage equality bill, talks, through tears, about how anti-gay sentiment marred the joy of her wedding day, and also how her Catholic parish gathered around her and her family to support them after Clementi’s death.

You can listen to the four-minute audio here, thanks to GoodAsYou.org.

A tragic reminder that marriage equality is needed to save lives.  A hopeful reminder that Catholic straight allies have an essential role in this struggle.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: January 30, 2012

January 30, 2012

Here are some links to items you might find of interest:

1) The Washington Post editorialized in favor of  “Same-sex marriage in Maryland,” chastising the Maryland Catholic Conference for criticizing Governor O’Malley’s support “as a distraction from more pressing economic needs. What may be a distraction for the conference is a fundamental concern for the state’s gay and lesbian residents.”

2) In “Moving Ahead on Marriage Equality,” The New York Times editorialized in support of New Jersey’s legislation, which is opposed by Governor Chris Christie, a Catholic.  In the closing paragraph, they cite three other Catholic governors who support marriage equality: New York’s Andrew Cuomo, Maryland’s Martin O’Malley of Maryland,  and Washington State’s  Christine Gregoire.

3) New York State Assemblyman “Daniel O’Donnell To Marry Boyfriend John Banta on Sunday,” reports OnTopMag.com.  According to the article O’Donnell, brother of openly-lesbian entertainer Rosie O’Donnell, met Banta in 1978 as students at Catholic University of America.

4) Coming to the defense of lesbian/gay people against a claim by a prominent Christian minister in Australia is the editor a Catholic church newspaper there.   In “Margaret Court says being gay the result of sexual abuse” in the Sunday Sun Herald,  Peter Rosengren, editor of The Record said “he had ‘never heard of any scientific study’ linking abuse and homosexuality, and that ‘everyone has to be respected.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: January 25, 2012

January 25, 2012

Here are links to some articles you might find of interest:

1) In a Washington Blade article, Maryland’s Catholic Governor Martin “O’Malley says marriage bill brings dignity, religious freedom.”  In attendance at the Governor’s prayer breakfast, and quoted in this article in support of marriage equality, is New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick.

2) Announcing that he will veto New Jersey’s marriage equality bill and prefers a referendum on the issue,  Catholic Governor Chris “Christie Wants Voters to Decide on Gay Marriage” reports the New York Times.

3) Both Pope Benedict XVI and John Boswell, the late Catholic gay historian, are quoted in “The ‘Art’ and Rhetoric of Stereotyping and Scapegoating LGBT People,” published on HuffingtonPost.com.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


NEWS NOTES: January 24, 2012

January 24, 2012

Here are links to some items you might find of interest:

1) In an announcement in all parish bulletins this past weekend, Seattle’s Archbishop Peter Satrain called on Catholics to contact their state legislators to oppose the marriage equality bill there.  Details can be found in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer  blog post,  “Archbishop Sartrain: ‘Protect Marriage.’ “

2) The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports “In Haugen casts key marriage equality vote” that Washington State’s marriage equality bill has received the 25 needed votes for passage in the Senate.  Passage in the state’s House is expected, and Catholic Governor Christine Gregoire has pledged to sign the bill.

3) Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland, a Catholic, has introduced a marriage equality bill to the state legislature, reports the Baltimore Sun in “O’Malley introduces same-sex marriage bill.”  Strengthened exemptions for religious institutions distinguish it from last year’s bill, which was tabled.  The Sun also reports that “O’Malley will back transgender rights bill,”  too.

4) The first gay man nominated to the New Jersey Supreme Court was named by Governor Chris Christie, a Catholic.   In “Christie Names a Gay Man and an Asian for the Top Court,” the New York Times reports that Christie, who has opposed marriage equality in his state denied that this pro-gay appointment is any indication that he will support marriage equality in this legislative session.

5) The Catholic Catechism’s directive that lesbian/gay people ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity’ is cited in a Malta Times article, “NGOs call for ‘hate crime’ to also cover anti-gay acts.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Marriage Equality Gaining Momentum in Two States with Catholic Governors (and Among Catholic Mayors, too)

January 22, 2012

New Jersey and Washington State both have Catholic governors, and both states will be considering marriage equality bills this legislative session.  The news from both states is that both bills are gaining a lot of momentum for passage.

On a Wall Street Journal politics blog, Heather Haddon reports that both the Senate and Assembly of New Jersey are very close to having enough votes to override any potential veto of the marriage bill which may come from Catholic governor Chris Christie:

“State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, one of the bill’s sponsors, estimated the chamber had between 24 and 27 supporters for legislation to allow for same-sex marriage in New Jersey. It takes 27 votes in the 40-member state senate to override a governor’s veto. . .  .

“Assembly Speaker Shelia Oliver, a Democrat, has said that she has majority support for same-sex marriage legislation, and that she would work to garner the 54 votes necessary for a veto override in the 80-member Assembly.”

A veto override may not even be necessary.  The CBS affiliate in the NY-NJ region reports signs of indecision about vetoing the bill from Governor Christie, who previously had been adamantly opposed to marriage equality:

“A day after   of the State address, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was non-committal on whether he would veto a same-sex marriage bill in the Garden State.

“Speaking with WCBS 880 anchors Wayne Cabot and Steve Scott, Christie said, ‘we’ll see what happens’ when directly asked if he would reject a gay marriage bill.”

In Washington State, the Senate is only one vote short of passing the bill, and there are enough supporters in the House and promised public support from Governor Christine Gregoire to make it law.  The Seattle Times reports:

“State Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, on Thursday announced he’ll support legislation legalizing gay marriage.

“Kastama’s support means there are 24 state senators — 22 Democrats and two Republicans — who’ve said they’ll vote for Senate Bill 6239. That’s one short of the 25 needed for passage.

“The state House already has enough lawmakers in support of the measure to approve it. Gov. Chris Gregoire backs the bill as well.”

Maryland, the only other state considering a marriage equality bill this session, also has a Catholic governor, Martin O’Malley, who has pledged his full support.

Meanwhile, close to 80 mayors from across the US have pledged to work for marriage equality. The Washington Post‘s report  notes that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the organizers of this mayoral coalition, specifically noted:

“It is also not about what organized religion should or should not do. This is a civil rights issue.”

Two of the five mayors who chair this project–Thomas Menino of  Boston and Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles–are Catholic.  A complete list of the mayors who support marriage equality can be found here.  Please let us know if you know if any of the other mayors on the list are Catholic. (New Ways Ministry is attempting to develop a list of Catholic government leaders who support LGBT equality initiatives.  You can read more about this project here.)

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: January 10, 2012

January 10, 2012

Here are links to some articles that might be of interest to you:

1) In a reference to marriage equality initiatives, Pope Benedict XVI, in a new year address to the Vatican’s diplomatic corps said, “. . .policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.”  For a full report on the speech, read the article, “Gay Marriage a Threat to Humanity’s Future: Pope.”

2)  In an editorial entitled, “Gov. Gregoire Comes Around,” The New York Times applauds Christine Gregoire, the Catholic governor of Washington State, for her support of marriage equality.

3) New Jersey’s marriage equality legislative debate will be a struggle between two Catholic political leaders:  Senate President Stephen Sweeney (pro) and Governor Chris Christie (con).   Read background on this contest in “Sweeney: N.J. Gay Marriage Fight Will Be with Christie, Not Legislature.”

4) Josh Zeitz, an aide and spokesperson for former N.J. Governor Jon Corzine, opines “Marriage Equality in N.J. a  Civil Rights Issue.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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