“What are we afraid of?” NJ State Senator Raymond Lesniak on Same-Sex Marriage

I cried when I read this.

I’m crying again now as I re-read it.

This is a person who gets it. He didn’t always get it — he didn’t always support same-sex marriage — but he gets it now. Not just as a matter of fairness or justice, not just as a matter of rational public policy. He gets it about why it matters.

It’s New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak, in a blog post on the NJ.com blog titled Why not gay marriage? And I’m just going to quote the whole damn thing.

What are we afraid of? That we’ll tear the fabric of society apart?

Seems like the fabric of society is already torn apart. Fifty percent of first marriages end in divorce. Less than 40 percent of eligible voters go to the polls. There’s rampant corruption in government. There are random acts of violence in Virginia and Newark, random acts of violence committed every day in our cities and our suburbs. Religious figures commit sexual assaults. Anti-gay political and religious figures are caught in the same sexual trysts they condemn in their public pronouncements.

I love my church, being raised a Roman Catholic. The Catholic Church does wonderful charitable works for the poor throughout the world, yet when I attended Mass recently, the priest gave a homily condemning those who do not follow the rules of the Church. Not a word about the gospel of the day, a beautiful reading from the gospel by Matthew on loving thy neighbor as thyself.

I left after the lecture and waited for my friends in my car, crying and feeling abandoned and not loved. But I digress.

Civil unions in New Jersey give committed gay couples the same rights as heterosexual married couples. Except the right to get “married”. The very law that gives these loving couples the rights of marriage deprives them of the loving feeling of being married. Outcasts only because of their love for each other.

Allowing gay couples to marry is not going to repair the fabric of society, but it’s not going to tear it apart either.

To paraphrase John Lennon, let’s give love a chance. We might just find out that it works.

BTW, to the folks in this blog who have been arguing that civil unions should be the legal contract and marriage should be the religious ceremony — for everyone, not just same-sex couples — I’d just like to repeat what Lesniak said:

“The very law that gives these loving couples the rights of marriage deprives them of the loving feeling of being married.”

That’s the part that keeps making me cry.

I don’t just want a legal contract that mimics marriage. I want the experience of marriage. Marriage is an institution/ ritual/ relationship that has existed for thousands of years, one that has tremendous resonance in our culture, in a way that civil unions simply don’t. Separate but equal is not equal. It never has been, and it never will be.

And I am touched beyond words that this Catholic state senator from New Jersey gets it.

“What are we afraid of?” NJ State Senator Raymond Lesniak on Same-Sex Marriage
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5 thoughts on ““What are we afraid of?” NJ State Senator Raymond Lesniak on Same-Sex Marriage

  1. 1

    Hi, GC!
    Recently new reader, first time commenter. But, in this short time, I found that I sure like what you have to say.
    I don’t dispute your or Sen. Lesniak’s feelings that you are being deprived of the satisfaction of marriage. However, I asert that all marriages that are legally recognized are, in fact, nothing more than civil unions. Don’t get me wrong – I’m only pointing out that the actual “marriage” is outside the purview of the governement. The law’s only involved in the first place to deal with the legal matters: essentially, how to divide property and responsibility after a couple parts ways (by divorce, death, whatever) and what legal and financial benefits they might enjoy. For what it’s worth, I don’t see that the marriage of two homosexuals in any way cheapens or threatens my heterosexual. I’m only sorry that I’m not doing more actively seeking to change the public perception.
    Two stories that might interest you on this matter. The first occured when my (at the time) 12-year old daughter accompanied my wife to a Garden Party thrown by one of the other coaches – black and gay – at the gym where she works and Em competes as a gymnast. Damon hosted the get-togethers every year in the spring on the day of one of the State Championships (Coaches breakfast, tour of the garden). This was the first time that Em’s meet was the same day as the party so she joined Mom on this visit.
    At any rate, Em was doing a people inventory and realized that there was a man that she didn’t recognize and finally asked the Mothership, “Who’s that guy?” With some hesitation, Mrs. Pi said, “That’s Mr. Damon’s partner.” Em then said, “Oh. How come I never met him before?” Mom said, “Well, some people don’t think that it’s right for two men to live together like this.”, to which Em replied, “Why should that matter?!” I’m more proud of my daughter for that response than for any single opinion she’s yet shared with us. (BTW: the couple had been together for several years prior – in fact the whole time that I’ve known him – and are still together today)
    Second story: I was Best Man at a wedding in PA back in ’98 where the groom was the son of an ex-priest and an ex-nun. (Dad, especially, became an ardent un-believer; I once saw him completely dismantle a door-to-door missionary by pointing out all of the hate and contradictions in the passages that the young man presented to support his case.) At any rate, the family decided to have Fr. Tom, an old family friend, perform the ceremony. The Problem: Fr. Tom worked in NY and did not have the legal standing to perform a marriage in PA. IOW, only the government had the power to grant that “sacrament”. The actual marriage took place a few minutes later in the Dining Room before pictures and dancing, perform by the local Justice of the Peace (another family friend). So it would seem that the Christian defense of marriage being defined and recognized by the word of god is pretty weak.
    I applaud you in referring to your partner as your wife and hope that if your marriage is not legally recognized (which it may be in San Fran; I know that that case went back and forth and am not certain of the final outcome) and socially accepted more widely at this point that it one day will.
    And keep up the good writing. I’ll be back.

  2. 2

    It’s great to see a lawmaker who gets it. Having our marriage performed in Canada, and then just accepted as no big deal here is absolutely incredible.
    We got married the week after all the weddings in SF, and it was heartbreaking when all those weddings were not recognized.
    I hope the U.S. eventually begins to see anti-marriage bigots the same as the people who were against African-Americans having rights in the 50’s.
    And to Pi – I feel very sorry for that coach who had to hide his partner. GLBT teachers and coaches should be able to live openly and share their lives with the students – just like heterosexuals. It was nice to see your daughter’s reaction.

  3. 3

    The thing I believe is that some churches will never want to marry everyone. Just as, once, divorced people or inter-faith couples couldn’t marry in some churches, but could be married by the state. I think that depriving those churches of their plaintive “sacred rites!!!!” cry by making it so that the word “marriage” is religious and “union” is civil might shut them up. After all, the religious rite doesn’t do squat as far as the civil rights and privileges are concerned. Then churches who want to marry anyone can and others don’t have to. Perhaps a law that prohibits priests etc. from performing the civil right would work.

  4. 4

    I see your point, Ridger, but it seems to be based on a mistaken assumption. Churches and other houses of worship would most emphatically NOT be required to perform same-sex weddings if same-sex marriage were legalized. They are not, for instance, required now to perform interfaith weddings, even though those are completely legal.

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