This Is A Gay Marriage Roundup: New Jersey, Maryland and Minnesota Edition

Much as everyone expected, Chris Christie moved to veto New Jersey’s attempt at a marriage equality bill, effectively ending any hope of marriage equality in New Jersey in 2012. He described his decision as a refusal to compromise “principles for politics,” which is ironic considering that opposing same-sex marriage is probably one of the more expedient things he could do for his own political career in the Republican party, and reiterated his desire to put the issue up for a vote by the people.

“I know that this is a very emotional issue and a divisive issue in my state,” Christie said in the interview to air on Piers Morgan Tonight on Tuesday but parts of which were released by CNN earlier in the day. “And so what I’ve suggested to the legislature is, in a way, the only way we have to amend our constitution in New Jersey – which is by referendum – let’s put it on the ballot, let’s let people decide. “And if the people in New Jersey, as some of the same sex marriage advocates suggest the polls indicate are in favor of it, then my position would not be the winning position, but I’m willing to take that risk because I trust the people of the state,” he said.

Christie also re-emphasized that he is certainly not bigoted, and everyone — including his gay friends — knows it. In the meantime, he’s told reporters that due to his Catholic faith, he will never change his opinion on this issue.

In more heartening news, Maryland’s Senate committee approved a same-sex marriage bill today, and while nothing is certain, it brings Maryland one step closer to full marriage equality. The issue will now go in front of the full State Senate, which passed a similar bill last year, and is believed to have enough votes to do so again. Last year’s marriage equality bill failed in the House, but Senator Jamie Raskin notes that “public opinion is changing quickly,” and the recent victory in Washington may mean that the landscape for marriage equality has changed enough that a passing vote is possible. There may be clauses added for the sake of ‘religious liberty protections,’ in which religious groups are not required to provide any marriage-related services unless they receive federal funding — something that’s frustrating on one level, but may help the bill to become a reality.

In Minnesota, there isn’t a marriage equality bill being introduced, but something more ominous — a vote on a possible amendment to the state constitution that would ban same-sex marriage.  The issue is deeply controversial, and it’s clear that there are at least some communities in Minnesota where equal rights for queers aren’t accessible. But at least one group has sent a strong message about their belief in equality. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, to whose denomination 1 in 4 Minnesotans apparently belongs, voted overwhelmingly to oppose the constitutional amendment. Pastor Brad Froslee says “We are encouraging the civil rights of all citizens of the state and are against being signaled out or targeted by a particular constitutional amendment or legislative action.”

It’s not definite or even necessarily likely that activists will achieve full marriage equality in any of these states, let alone all three. But it seems clear that we could never have gotten even this far a year ago; in fact it’s certain, since Maryland and New Jersey have both tried and failed to pass marriage bills before. The road isn’t getting any easier to walk, but there are clear signs that at least we’re closer to the end of it, and for that we deserve to be proud.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. why is gay marriage still an issue? actually, why is MARRIAGE an issue? civil unions all around! if you want to get married, do it in a church, not a courthouse.

    • On a certain Libertarian level I understand what you are saying, jae. In a different world marriages would be in churches. The government wouldn’t be involved and would only issue some kind of civil paperwork to cover things about taxes, immigration, next of kin and such. However, that ain’t the world we live in.

      Marriage means a lot to most people in our society. People like the government acknowledging their marital status. They like having it officially documented. For those reasons, and others, I don’t see the government getting out of the marriage business at any point in our lifetimes. And so long as the government is going to give out certificates of marriage then they need to be given out regardless of anybody’s race, class, creed, or gender.

    • Looking at the European origins of marriage, it wasn’t a religious institution until Religions incorporated it into a ceremony, replacing the primarily civil arrangements between families that constituted the concept previously. This is a definition that is incorporated somewhat in different jurisdictions. In France currently, only the civil ceremony is binding, while the religious ceremony is something that one can opt for in addition if the couple adheres to a certain religion.

      Different cultures around the world also have different conceptualizations of what a marriage entails, and what its origins are. Dividing the concept of marriage into the sum of its parts and renaming certain aspects ignores this diversity of experience.

      It also seems unfair to abandon the inherent civil and legal functions that are associated with the word “marriage” in favour of a partial, and rather contextual definition, that is being promoted by a group or collection of groups. I understand the desire to divorce religion from the concept of marriage from a personal level, I’d completely agree with your thoughts there, but I think that we can only achieve inclusiveness in society when we allow institutions to have diversity rather than when we segment them, and by doing so build barriers between different groups.

    • so let me clarify my train of thought: gay marriage shouldn’t be an issue because it should already be a thing we have. the first question was posed more to opponents. then i went off to the second question, realizing that gay marriage wouldn’t be an issue if marriage weren’t an issue either.

      as marriage is a sexist institution so strongly tied to religion in the united states, i’d rather be without it entirely. i’m 90-something% sure that in a lot of places, civil unions and/or domestic partnerships provide the same legal rights and protections of marriage. just not the federal rights and protections, but that’s a structural problem arising from states’ rights.

      anyway, i’m more interested in a radical overhaul of society than ‘inclusion’ in it.

  2. NOTHING infuriates me more than when someone taking a stand against same-sex marriage (or any bill attempting to achieve equality, really) has to throw out the “I’m not a bigot, I have gay friends, my gay friends don’t think I’m a bigot.”

    Whenever I hear it, I think “Oh, so you think your maybe-totally-made-up-for-posterity gay friends should be treated like second class citizens. What a WONDERFUL FRIEND YOU ARE.”

    I swear, it’s like Republicans think having a token queer in their social group is essentially a get-out-of-bigot-jail-free card.

  3. What sort of religious protections are they adding? If they say that no church can be forced to marry a couple, I agree with this, and I believe they already have this right, gay or straight. But if they are saying that religiously affiliated hospitals can refuse to recognize same-sex spouses visitation rights, it makes the legislation faulty and not worth passing IMO.

  4. I am so proud to be a part of one of the churches that was at that meeting, and voted to oppose, in Minnesota!

  5. @Jae,

    I know where you were going, but civil unions do not grant the same rights marriage does (for example immigration rights). Actually, because of DOMA, even in states that approve gay marriage, marriage is not really marriage for us gays yet in terms of the rights that it confers.

    Whatever we call it, if conservatives are so stuck in marriage being a religious institution they need to protect (and if semantics are really that important) we should propose to create a new term. One that does not appear in any religious text. One that allows two consenting adults who are not related to each other to form a legal union that grants a set of rights and responsibilities don’t vary according to their gender.

  6. DOMA is dying, y’all.

    “Simply stating what has always been does not address the reasons for it. The mere fact that prior law, history, tradition, the dictionary and the Bible have defined a term does not give that definition a rational basis, it merely states what has been. Tradition, standing alone, does not provide a rational basis for the law.” Judge Jeffrey White, Federal District Court for the District of Northern California, Golinski v. OPM

    “There is no worse reason to justify something by saying it has always been done this way.” Justice Holmes

  7. Careful on what you say about Lutherans and gay “marriage”. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, to which about half of all Lutherans in America belong, has, with great resistance from rank and file, endorsed gay “marriage” as it has also endorsed gay ordination. That is a church body in which the clergy stand far to the left of the laity.

    But the other half of Lutherans belong to churches of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (to which Michele Bachmann until recently belonged), and Evangelical Lutheran Synod. None of those bodies endorse those things, and unlike ELCA, they are not closely divided; they are virtually unanimous in opposing such things.

  8. Gay wedding will always be a discussion in our society today. Some my agree to it, and some may be against it because it’s contradicting their principles and beliefs. I believe that it’ll go on like that since it gay relationship will always be tied up to religion.

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