A new Marriage Equality letter – from 120 clergy in 19 NJ faiths

During the historic 7 hours of testimony on marriage equality in December, most if not all of the testimony against reforming our laws on marriage were religious arguments. They said, in essence:

I believe this, so therefore, your rights should be limited, because my belief tradition tells me they should.

News coverage focused on those people (even though plenty clergy in favor showed up), who while they feel strongly, were trying to apply private beliefs to public civic questions, claiming equality would endanger their religious freedom. In fact the reverse is true; clergy who are accepting and ready to perform marriage for same-sex couples cannot do that now. And opponents are only a slice of where New Jersey’s faith community is on marriage equality. A letter – with a far broader representation New Jersey’s religious leaders – in strong support of marriage equality, and signed by 120 clergy from 19 faiths, was sent today to Senate President Dick Codey and Speaker Joe Roberts. The letter asks that both leaders put the marriage equality bill to a vote before their full respective houses in this legislative session, without precondition.

It’s a good letter; tough and direct. It points out that New Jersey’s current marriage law is not religiously neutral but reflects the beliefs of leaders of a particular religion opposing marriage equality. And stands behind Republican Senator Bill Baroni’s amendment to even further strengthen strong protections for religious freedom – ensuring no religious organization or facility can be sued because it follows its own conscience in which marriages it will accommodate, and which it will not. That America has never let one religious doctrine determine secular law, pointing out – as Asm Reed Gusciora did in his Dec. 7 testimony – that the state provides for divorce even though some traditions find it impermissible, and that New Jersey would never ban civil divorce.

And then it gently asks the state to “get out of our sanctuaries and uphold our religious freedom as clergy to marry whom we wish, or don’t wish, under State law.”



Full letter’s under the fold.
Is your family’s faith tradition on this list? Or its leaders?

120 Clergy from 19 Faiths in the State of New Jersey

Monday, January 4, 2010

Senate President Richard J. Codey

Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts, Jr.

The State House

Trenton, New Jersey 08625

Dear Governor Codey and Speaker Roberts:

We are 120 clergy members across New Jersey from 19 faiths and denominations.  We are but a sample of New Jersey clergy who support marriage equality and wish to marry same-sex couples legally.  

We are Baptist, Buddhist, Episcopal, Ethical Culture Society, Interfaith, Jewish Conservative, Jewish Reconstructionist, Jewish Reform, Lutheran, Metropolitan Community Church, Methodist, Presbyterian, Reformed Church of America, Sankey Tribe, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ and Unity Fellowship Church.  Among us are members of the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers, who do not have clergy.

We 120 clergy members ask you to put the marriage equality bill to a vote in your respective houses – without precondition – before the end of the current legislative session.  

In our nation founded on the separation of church and state, the State of New Jersey should not be in the business of telling faiths and clergy whom we can or cannot legally marry.   We take issue with the State’s current marriage law, which is not religiously neutral but reflects the beliefs of leaders of a particular faith community which opposes marriage equality.  

We 120 clergy members support the freedom of religion embodied by the U.S. Constitution, the New Jersey Constitution and the marriage equality bill now before the New Jersey legislature, the Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act.  Language in the bill underscores the right of every religion and every clergy member to decide whom to marry and not to marry.  

Furthermore, an amendment to the bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee last month would codify the nation’s strongest protections for religious freedom in matters of marriage.  The amendment ensures that no religious organization or religious facility in New Jersey can be sued because it has followed its conscience in which marriages it chooses to accommodate, or not accommodate.    

There cannot be a better guarantor of religious freedom than the version of the Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act now before you.  

We are proud that our nation has never allowed any one religious doctrine to determine secular law.  New Jersey law provides for divorce, for example, though some find divorce religiously impermissible.  Indeed, the idea of New Jersey’s banning civil divorce would be unthinkable.  Our state would not stand for favoring the convictions of any one religion over another.

As 120 clergy across New Jersey from 19 faiths and denominations, we urgently ask you to put the marriage equality bill to a vote in your respective houses – without precondition – before the end of the current legislative session.  The State must get out of our sanctuaries and uphold our religious freedom as clergy to marry whom we wish, or don’t wish, under State law.

We appreciate your thoughtful consideration.  

Sincerely,

Rabbi Joel Abraham, Jewish Reform

Rabbi Victor Appell, Jewish Reform

Rev. Meg Barnhouse, Unitarian Universalist

Bishop Mark Beckwith, Episcopal

Leader Rafaela Billini, Buddhist

Rev. Fred Blanken, Sankey Tribe

Rev. David C. Bocock, United Church of Christ

Rev. Dr. Thomas Bohache, Metropolitan Community Church

Rabbi Neal Borovitz, Jewish Reform

Rabbi Andrew Bossov, Jewish Reform

Rabbi Kenneth L. Brickman, Jewish Reform

Rev. Christopher Bruesehoff, Lutheran

Rev. Rene Colson Hudson, American Baptist

Dr. Joseph C. Chuman, Ethical Culture Society

Rev. Matthew Cimorelli, Lutheran

Rev. Diana Clark, Episcopal

Rev. Susan Nelson-Colaneri, Lutheran

Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz, Jewish Reform

Rev. Bruce Davidson, Lutheran

Michael Dawson, Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers)

Rev. Peter DeFranco, Lutheran

Rev. David DeSmith, Episcopal

Rabbi Stephanie Dickstein, Jewish Conservative

Rev. Robert Janis-Dillon, Unitarian Universalist

Rev. Thomas Dorsey, Lutheran

Rev. Wayne Dreyman, Lutheran

Rev. L.L. DuBreuil, United Church of Christ

Rev. Dr. Jeffrey C. Eaton, Lutheran

Rev. Rusty Eidmann-Hicks, United Church of Christ

Rabbi Paula Feldstein, Jewish Reform

Rev. Mary Forrell, Lutheran

Rev. Bryan Franzen, Presbyterian

Rabbi Elyse Frishman, Jewish Reform

Rev. Maristella Freiberg, Episcopal

Rev. Anahi Galante, Interfaith

Rev. Debra Given, Presbyterian

Rev. John Graf, Interfaith

Cantor Meredith Greenberg, Jewish Conservative

Rabbi Jarah Greenfield, Jewish Reconstructionist

Rabbi David Greenstein, Jewish Conservative

Rev. Carol Haag, Unitarian Universalist

Rabbi Debra R. Hachen, Jewish Reform

Rev. Dr. Betsey Hall, Presbyterian

Rabbi Richard Hammerman, Jewish Conservative

Rev. Rose Hardy, Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church

Rev. Rose Hassan, Episcopal

Father Joseph A. Harmon, Episcopal

Rev. Margaret Hayes, Lutheran

Rev. Alicia Heath-Toby, Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church

Rev. Margaret Herz-Lane, Lutheran

Bishop Jacquelyn Holland, Unity Fellowship Church

Rev. Janyce Jackson, Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church

Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, Reformed Church in America

Catherine Karsten, Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers)

Rev. Katherine G. Killebrew, Presbyterian

Rabbi Donna Kirschbaum, Jewish Reconstructionist

Rev. Robert Kriesat, Lutheran

Teacher Peter Kurczynski, Buddhist

Rabbi Alfred Landsberg, Jewish Reform

Rev. Gary C. LeCroy, Lutheran

Rabbi Darby Jared Leigh, Jewish Reconstructionist

Rev. Fred Lentz, Lutheran

Rabbi Ellen Lewis, Jewish Reform

Rabbi David C. Levy, Jewish Reform

Rabbi Adina Lewittes, Jewish Conservative

Cantor Erica J. Lippitz, Jewish Conservative

Rabbi Sharon Litwin, Jewish Reform

Bishop George Lucey, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church

Rev. Murdoch MacPherson, Lutheran

Rabbi Randall Mark, Jewish Conservative

Rev. Alison B. Miller, Unitarian Universalist

Rabbi Jordan Millstein, Jewish Reform

Rev. Manish Mishra, Unitarian Universalist

Rev. Rob Morris, Presbyterian

Rabbi Leana Moritt, Jewish Renewal

Rev. William C. Moser, Lutheran

Rabbi Robin Nafshi, Jewish Reform

Rev. Julie Newhall, Unitarian Universalist

Rev. Tiina Nummela, Lutheran

Rev. Clark Olson-Smith, Lutheran

Rev. Sara Olson-Smith, Lutheran

Rev. Charles Bluestein Ortman, Unitarian Universalist

Rev. Michelle Owings-Christian, Sankey Tribe

Rev. Fairbairn Powers, Episcopal

Rev. Dr. Susan Veronica Rak, Unitarian Universalist

Rev. Ann Ralosky, United Church of Christ

Rev. Donald R. Ransom, Unity Fellowship Church

Rabbi Esther Reed, Jewish Conservative

Rev. Christine Regan, Episcopal

Rev. Elsie Rhodes, Presbyterian

Rabbi Jonathan Roos, Jewish Reform

Rabbi Francine Roston, Jewish Conservative

Rev. Dr. Charles T. Rush, United Church of Christ

Rev. Leah Doberne-Schor, Jewish Reform

Rev. Marshall Shelly, Episcopal

Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu, Jewish Conservative

Rabbi Steven Sirbu, Jewish Reform

Rev. Carlton Elliott Smith, Unitarian Universalist

Rev. Vanessa Southern, Unitarian Universalist

Cantor Kerith Spencer-Shapiro, Jewish Reform

Rabbi Cy Stanway, Reform Judaism

Rev. Randy Steinman, Lutheran

Rev. Charles Stephens, Unitarian Universalist

Rev. Douglas Stivison, United Church of Christ

Rev. David L. Stoner, Lutheran

Thomas Swain, Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers)

Rebecca Sylvan, Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers)

Elder Rev. Kevin E. Taylor, Unity Fellowship Church

Rabbi Elliott Tepperman, Jewish Reconstructionist

Rev. Matt A. Thiringer, Lutheran

Rev. Charles N. Thompson, Presbyterian

Rev. Mary Tiebout, United Church of Christ

Rev. Ray VandeGiessen, Presbyterian

Rev. Gus Vinajeras, Lutheran

Rev. Paul Walker, Episcopal

Rev. Moacir Weirich, United Church of Christ

Rev. Dr. Traci C. West, United Methodist

Rev. David Wolf, Episcopal

Rev. Jeffrey B. Ziegler, Lutheran

Rabbi Ruth A. Zlotnick, Jewish Reform

 

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