The Lamp

Where truth can be shared.

N.J. Clergy Not Required to Perform Civil Unions

Posted by thelamp on January 18, 2007

New Jersey clergy, unlike secular officials, can’t be required to perform same-sex unions when they become available Feb. 19. The state attorney general announced the decision last week, quieting fears among religious groups opposed to “faux” marriage ceremonies.

Attorney General Stuart Rabner’s legal opinion, sent to the state registrar of vital statistics, came less than a month after the state became the third to approve civil unions for same-sex couples. The unions offer the legal benefits of marriage, but not the title. Couples may begin applying for licenses in New Jersey on Feb. 19 and can be united 72 hours later.

“Christians are lying asleep, much the same way they did when Supreme Court Justices legalized abortion in 1973 in the infamous Roe vs. Wade case,” said Pastor Parsley. “It’s bad enough that same-sex marriage is being forced upon the majority of Americans, but it would be an unspeakable travesty to also demand that the servants of God perform the unholy union.”

Under the law, all the same people who perform marriages – among them clergy, judges, mayors and other local officials – can preside over civil union ceremonies. The attorney general issued another opinion last month saying that mayors and other non-clergy who regularly perform marriages cannot turn down same-gender couples who ask to have civil unions performed.

Those officials will have to perform the unions or stop doing all weddings. To perform any marriage requested but then turn down civil unions would be a violation of the anti-discrimination law. There is concern that gay rights advocates might sue to force clergy to perform the ceremonies.

Last week’s announcement is welcome news because it recognizes ministers’ right to practice their faith.



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