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12/29/2008

NJ Ruling: Pavilion not only for Dorothy/Chandler

by Jeremy Hooper

 Good As You Images Picture-11-74Do you remember that situation in Ocean Grove, NJ, where a lesbian couple sued after their request to use a publicly-open pavilion for their civil union ceremony was denied on religious grounds? And do you know how ever since, the far-right has used the matter as example of "churches" being "forced" to marry gays, since the pavilion has Methodist ties? Yea, well -- the anti-gay side's disingenuous spin was today dealt another crushing blow. This from a Garden State Equality press release:

BAN ON CIVIL UNIONS AT THE PUBLIC BOARDWALK PAVILION IN OCEAN GROVE, NEW JERSEY IS DISCRIMINATORY, RULES STATE DIVISION ON CIVIL RIGHTS

Monday, December 29, 2008 – The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights ruled today in favor of a same-sex couple who sued the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association for banning civil union ceremonies at the town’s public boardwalk pavilion.

The Division ruled that the couple, Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster, have “probable cause” to claim that the ban violates New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. Today’s opinion was based on the boardwalk pavilion’s being public by nature of its historic use, open to everyone for decades without restrictions. In fact, the Camp Meeting Association had for years advanced that very argument, by applying for – and receiving – state tax breaks under New Jersey’s “Green Acres” program that requires facilities to be open and nondiscriminatory to all.

Discrimination is once again found to be wrong? Wow, what a crazy shocker! The question now: How much more money, time, and political capital will our opposition force us all to waste before we can all sign on to the fair, right, and inevitable? A couple billion? A couple more years? Thousands of more breaths of annoying debate? Seriously, how much longer do we have to entertain this costly, society-weakening nonsense?! Because the regressive feet-dragging, while once kind of interesting, has become more annoying than being forced to listen to Christmas Carols on 12/29, and more time-wasting that starting your New Years Eve Countdown fifteen hours before the ball is set to drop.

**Here's the full GSE release:

BAN ON CIVIL UNIONS AT THE PUBLIC BOARDWALK PAVILION IN OCEAN GROVE, NEW JERSEY IS DISCRIMINATORY, RULES STATE DIVISION ON CIVIL RIGHTS

Monday, December 29, 2008 – The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights ruled today in favor of a same-sex couple who sued the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association for banning civil union ceremonies at the town’s public boardwalk pavilion.

The Division ruled that the couple, Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster, have “probable cause” to claim that the ban violates New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. Today’s opinion was based on the boardwalk pavilion’s being public by nature of its historic use, open to everyone for decades without restrictions. In fact, the Camp Meeting Association had for years advanced that very argument, by applying for – and receiving – state tax breaks under New Jersey’s “Green Acres” program that requires facilities to be open and nondiscriminatory to all.

As the Division on Civil Rights ruled today, the Camp Meeting Association’s ban was discriminatory because it has prohibited same-sex civil unions at the public boardwalk pavilion, but not opposite-sex marriages.

The decision in the latest in a series of blows to the Camp Meeting Association’s campaign to discriminate against same-sex couples. In September 2007, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection ended the Camp Meeting Association’s tax breaks for the public boardwalk pavilion area, based on the Association’s discriminatory ban on civil unions.

Garden State Equality and Ocean Grove United have been relentless in leading grassroots opposition to the ban – Garden State Equality at the statewide level and Ocean Grove United at the local level. The couple, Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster, are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

"Though we're not home free yet, today's decision by the Corzine Administration is a significant victory for liberty and justice for all in Ocean Grove," said Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality. "The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association has only itself to blame for pursuing a lawsuit that will cost it hundreds of thousands of dollars – and potentially millions of dollars in potential tourism to Ocean Grove, known across the country as a leading LGBT-friendly destination.

“The question is, how much more hell will the Camp Meeting Association, and its national right-wing extremist backers, put the good people of Ocean Grove through? We all know how this saga will wind up. The boardwalk will eventually be re-open to civil unions. Our side is winning juncture after juncture in this case because the law is overwhelmingly on our side. It's time for the Camp Meeting Association to see the handwriting on the pavilion, and end its discriminatory ban now."

In a second complaint against the Camp Meeting Association, the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights today ruled there was no probable cause, based solely on the timing of the complaint by the same-sex couple involved there, Jan Moore and Emily Sonnessa. They filed their complaint once the Camp Meeting Association decided to ban both opposite-sex weddings and same-sex civil unions at the boardwalk pavilion, thus preempting the question of discrimination against civil union couples.

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Your thoughts

The religious reich is going to have kittens over this.

Posted by: RainbowPhoenix | Dec 29, 2008 4:02:16 PM

As an Angelino, thanks for the Dorothy Chandler reference

Posted by: Timothy | Dec 29, 2008 9:39:36 PM

This is fantastic news. The northeast is definitely leading the pack now. I know MA was the first, CT the second. It's a toss up with NY, NJ and RI of all places.

I say RI because there are two things in play here. The first is the potential invalidation of the Family Court Act of 1967 under the grounds of violation of Article 1, Section 2 of the Rhode Island Constitution.

The other is the loss of election by Sen. Joseph Montalbano and his replacement being Sen. M. Theresa Paiva-Weed. I've been assured by Rep. Frank Ferri that Weed is an ally in our cause.

Now if we could only do something about house speaker Rep. William Murphy.

Posted by: Tony P | Dec 29, 2008 11:19:41 PM

"Now if we could only do something about house speaker Rep. William Murphy. " You can Tony P. Remember this is STONEWALL 2.0 Just keep working it LOUD! and it will happen.

Posted by: LOrion | Dec 30, 2008 2:09:48 PM

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