NJEA supports S-1 (Weinberg, Lesniak, Sweeney) /A-1 (Gusciora, Oliver, Wagner, Jasey, McKeon, Vainieri Huttle, O’Donnell, Wisniewski, Eustace). This legislation known as the “Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act,” would authorize same-sex marriage in New Jersey. The bill defines “marriage” as the legally recognized union of two consenting persons in a committed relationship. Currently, six states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry.
While the measure would give legal recognition to marriages of same-sex couples, clergy and others who object on religious grounds would be exempted from having to perform a ceremony. Similarly, the bill also provides that any child whose parent or guardian presents to the school principal a signed statement that any part of the instructions in health, family life education or sex education is in conflict with his conscience, or sincerely held moral or religious beliefs shall be excused from that portion of the course where such instruction is being given and no penalties as to credit or graduation shall result.
NJEA supports this legislation because it will provide long-overdue equality to individuals in committed relationships. NJEA strongly supports every member’s right under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to equal protection under the law. NJEA believes that New Jersey’s current civil union law falls short of providing that protection, as civil union partners continue to face discrimination in myriad settings that this legislation would resolve.
NJEA also asserts that, if as a society we believe that all students should be treated equally, we must demonstrate through our actions that all adults should be treated equally. NJEA members care about the children of gay and lesbian couples and want to ensure their equal treatment in school. When government singles out the same-sex parents of these children for unequal treatment, other children are likely to do the same.
It is time for civil rights to replace civil unions in New Jersey. NJEA urges you to support this important legislation.