Wednesday, April 8, 2009

End the Lies - 2 for 2

The HRC has a solid rebuttal to the 3 claims in the National Organization for Marriage's scare campaign hitting the east coast airways this week titled "End the Lies". It's worth a read.

I would like to draw particular attention to the Second concern highlighted in the ad, and bring up an alternate Second case decided in court about the same subject for the same defendant (on the same day!) that absolutely proves that this ad is an outright lie. The second concern in the ad states:
"I am part of a New Jersey church group punished by the government because we cannot support same-sex marriage."
As the HRC rebuttal explains, this actor is describing the case of Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster against the Ocean Grove New Jersey Methodist pavilion which was rented out for public use for any-denominational weddings, civil ceremonies, and other non-religious public events, including civil war re-enactments, and the Methodist owners of this tax-exempt public space denied their application on religious grounds. When Bernstein and Paster were denied permission to rent the public space for their civil commitment ceremony, they took legal action.

The legal concern immediately caused the OC Methodist group to change their policies and withdraw the pavillion from Public space.

A few days later, a different lesbian couple, Janice Moore and Emily Sonnessa, applied also to use the same space for a commitment ceremony and were denied, and they also took their case to court.

Bernstein and Paster's case was decided in their favor, because the space had been provided tax-exempt status as a Public Accomodation. Moore-Sonnessa, on the other hand, was decided for the OC Methodist church, because a private religious organization cannot be forced to offer private accomodations. Lots more details about these cases on Leonard Link's wonderful blog.

There you have it. Two wholly different cases about the same space, owned by the same defendants, over the identical topic of space for lesbian civil unions only a couple of days apart, but absolutely proving that the claim in the ad is a lie. Churches are absolutely not "Punished by the Government" for believing the way they do. They simply cannot claim to be Public Acommodations and get special Tax Exempt status without following non-discrimination law. If they want to stay private and follow their own rules, they can discriminate at will.