This just in: By a 7-6 vote, the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee voted out the marriage equality bill, with what appear to be appropriate protections for religious organizations whose beliefs teach against same-sex unions. (I’m trying to get a copy of the bill so that I can independently analyze its terms.) Its fate in the full Senate (and beyond) may be decided on Thursday, and is unclear.
As I wrote a few hours ago, some of the testimony focused on religion, and its appropriate (or not, in my view) place in this debate. Read the linked article at the start of this post, and you’ll see that much of the opposition revolved around two points: religion and the right of “the people” to decide the issue.
As I’ve written before, this notion that we should suspend representative democracy to allow visceral votes on issues of basic equality is as perverse as it is popular. If you can find the testimony, listen to the exchange between a Vermont Republican legislator who came down to testify and a clearly overmatched NJ Senator, who pressed her unsuccessfully whether the question should be put to the people. “The people elect us to make hard choices,” was her unassailable bottom line.
But as to religion, consider this astonishing statement by Josh Pruzanzsky, Executive Director of the Agudath of Israel of New Jersey. Same-sex marriage “would endanger religious freedom [and] inhibit free speech….”
Whose religious freedom? Not those of more liberal religious groups, whose freedoms are infringed if they’re not permitted to solemnize same-sex unions. The connection between the legislative bullying of the “big” religions and the popular vote that reflects the beliefs of those same groups is clear, and troubling.
Also troubling is the just-below-the-surface equation of gay couples with sex, and the related anger over the challenge to gender rules that we represent. Consider this “comment” from one of the story’s readers, which reflects a primal mash-up of all of these fears:
top / muncher = husband ??????????????????
bottom / munchee = wife ????????????????????????
My head is spinning- does anyone remember Sodom and Gomorrah??
Whatever the full legislature decides, there’s a long way to go.