New Jersey Rules against Christian Group that Declined to Host Lesbian Civil Union Ceremony
By Kathleen Gilbert
MOUNT LAUREL, New Jersey, January 6, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A New Jersey Christian group has lost a case against a lesbian couple who brought the group to court for refusing to rent out their oceanfront grounds to the pair for a civil union ceremony.
The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights on Monday ruled that the Methodist Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association had violated the public accommodation provisions of state anti-discrimination laws. A remedy has not yet been settled.
"What this case has always been about from my clients’ perspective has been equality," said Larry Lustberg, the couple’s attorney. Lustberg indicated the couple would pursue an order mandating that the Christian group be "open to all on an equal basis."
The couple, Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster of Ocean Grove, sued the group after they refused to rent them their square-mile property in March of 2007. Another lesbian couple also sued the very next month to use the grounds, but lost their case as the group had already put a halt to leasing the property for any wedding ceremony.
The director of the state’s Division on Civil Rights and the official who wrote Monday’s ruling, Frank Vespa-Papaleo, recommended last month that New Jersey become the third U.S. state to introduce same-sex "marriage" into law.
Brian Raum, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund who fought on behalf of the Methodist group, said they would continue to fight for their first amendment rights. "Our position is the same," said Raum. "A Christian organization has a constitutional right to use their facilities in a way that is consistent with their beliefs."
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Methodist Camp Meeting Association Sues New Jersey for Civil Union Investigation
Lesbian Couple Files Complaint against Church for Refusing Civil Union Ceremony