A New Jersey lesbian couple has filed a civil rights complaint against a Methodist church association that refused to allow them to use it’s campgrounds for their civil union ceremony.
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Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster filed the complaint June 19 with the state attorney general’s office on the grounds of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation after the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association declined the use of their private campground for their civil union ceremony, planned for September.
New Jersey’s anti-discrimination laws currently forbid those who “offer goods, services, and facilities to the general public” from “directly or indirectly denying or withholding any accommodation, service, benefit, or privilege to an individual” on the basis of sexual orientation.
The United Methodist church group that owns the retreat is suing the New Jersey government, saying its rights of religious freedom are being violated.
More than 150 people witnessed their civil union in a historic inn this week. And several clergy members spoke against the Methodist group’s decision.
The Rev. David Parker, a retired Methodist minister ordained 58 years ago, called it “plainly un-Christian” to deny the lesbian couple access to the church grounds for their ceremony.
Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, said his organization is prepared to go door to door to help fight the Methodists group’s lawsuit.
Photo: Saed Hindash/The Star-Ledger