The Unitarian Church in Summit has voted to take a stand in favor of marriage equality and plans to unveil a banner on the front of its building on Sunday, December 9, to announce its support for full legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
The public is invited to attend the outdoor unveiling at 12:30 p.m. on the Springfield Avenue side of the congregation’s building at 4 Waldron Avenue. Clergy and lay members of the congregation will speak briefly about their views of what marriage means and why a change in state and federal marriage law is essential.
The banner will read “Say ‘I Do’ to Marriage Equality” and is being designed by graphic designers within the congregation. Members discussed the issue last June at the church’s annual meeting and voted to take the stand supporting marriage equality for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.
“Marriage is a civil right," says the congregation's Senior Minister, the Rev. Vanessa Southern. "Citizens of New Jersey who pay taxes and who are married under the eyes of their ministers and rabbis are being denied more than 1,100 rights simply because the law says they are of the wrong sex. Our national standard of justice demands we do better."
The New Jersey Legislature passed a Marriage Equality bill last February, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the measure. Supporters in legislature have until January 14, 2014, to secure enough votes to override the veto.
The state has had a law providing for civil unions since 2006, but the Final Report of the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission, established by the state legislature, found that the existing civil union and domestic partnership laws fail to achieve the constitutionally mandated equality of rights under New Jersey law. The New Jersey State Bar Association testified in agreement with the report.
Under federal law, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act prevents the federal government from recognizing gay marriage and results in more far-reaching discrimination against same-sex couples, including the inability to qualify for insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors’ benefits and the filing of joint tax returns. DOMA has been found unconstitutional in eight federal courts, including two federal appeals courts. The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review the cases and will decide soon whether it will do so.
“Full marriage equality is the only way to address the problem,” said Martin Rothfelder, chair of the committee that collected signatures to bring the marriage-equality issue before the congregation. “The civil union process now in place in our state has not and cannot provide equal legal rights even within New Jersey because of confusion, non-compliance and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.”
“The situation is even worse when New Jersey civil-unioned couples travel out of state,” adds Kimi Nakata, a member of the church’s board of trustees. “In most places, the civil union provides virtually nothing in terms of legal rights. Our state’s same-sex couples continue to face discrimination in rights regarding their children, inheritance, hospital visitation and a whole host of other circumstances that heterosexual couples take for granted.”
The Unitarian Church in Summit draws members from various religious and cultural backgrounds who join together in their individual quests for truth and meaning. Its mission is to be a radically inclusive religious community that feeds the human spirit and heals the world. There is no creed or test of membership, but the community is bound together by principles, shared values and a desire to serve. We are a member congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.