Thursday, October 26, 2006

New Jersey's ruling


As you no doubt know, the New Jersey Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision yesterday that said that the state constitution demands full equal rights for same sex couples. They also gave the State Legislature 180 days to figure out what that means, including whether to call those rights marriage or a civil union.

Now, I confess that I have not read the 90 page opinion yet, but my initial response is to celebrate their understanding and commitment to equal rights, while wishing that the would have affirmed this as "marriage." I simply don't get what it means when people say yes to civil unions but fervently believe that the word marriage should only belong to heterosexual couples. It's not as if we always do a good job of honoring it.

I increasingly though am of the mind that we should move to the European system. The state should perform civil unions for couples -- both same sex and other sex. Religious bodies should perform marriages -- and each religious body should determine for itself their criteria for who should be eligible for sacred ceremonies.

I always feel like a bit of a fraud when I sign a marriage license. The state asks me to perform no other state function as a member of the ordained clergy, and I don't need their permission to bury someone or name a baby. In Europe, as I understand, clergy don't sign the licenses; the state official does.

But, for now, let's celebrate one more step to recognizing relational justice for all.

2 comments:

Cassandra said...

Don't European countries with the most liberal marriage laws also have the lowest rates of marriage? It would appear that liberalizing marriage really means the death of marriage.

Maria said...

My own minister, a UU minister here in CT, refuses to sign marriage licenses. She'll do the ceremony, but that's all. She'll start signing them again when everyone, including her and her partner, can get married. I'm so proud to be associated with her!