Gay Couples Wed in Jersey. When Will it be Philly’s Turn?

Good news in the Garden State, while the rest of us keep waiting.

Lots of gay marriage news today. First, the Inquirer reports on gay marriages starting up in New Jersey:

Gay couples exchanged vows in early morning ceremonies in several New Jersey communities Monday as the state began recognizing their marriages at 12:01 a.m., becoming the 14th state to do so.

The hastily planned first weddings to legally unite long-time couples were planned for a state Senator’s grand home in Elizabeth, the boardwalk in Asbury Park and government buildings in small towns and big cities.

In the arts community of Lambertville, Mayor David DelVecchio led the ceremony to marry Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey. He also presided when they joined in a civil union the minute they became recognized in the state in February 2007.

That’s the good news. Less great? It might be awhile before Pennsylvanians join them again.

Across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, advocates are pecking away at a 1996 gay marriage ban by introducing bills in the Legislature, defiantly issuing marriage licenses in localities and taking the issue to court — with few people conceding the tactics will work anytime soon in a big state with a socially conservative spine.




“I don’t think it is going to happen next year. ... It’s going to take leadership from the top,” said state Rep. Mike Fleck, an openly gay Republican who represents a rural, conservative district in Huntingdon County, nestled in the Allegheny Mountains.

The different approaches — and levels of success — in the two neighboring states illustrate the many ways the effort to legalize same-sex marriage is playing out nationally in the months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of a federal law that restricted the rights of gay couples.

In fact, the struggle is playing out within the United Methodist Church locally, the Inquirer reports:

More than 30 United Methodist pastors from Eastern Pennsylvania have agreed to jointly officiate a same-sex marriage next month, an unprecedented showing of solidarity for an embattled colleague that could lead to their ouster from the pulpit.

The colleague is the Rev. Frank Schaefer, who faces a Nov. 18 church trial in Chester County for officiating at the 2007 marriage between his son and another man.

Schaefer's fellow pastors call that an act of love, not a prosecutable offense. They gathered Thursday at a Philadelphia church and, after more than two hours, agreed to preside as a group at a same-sex marriage, a step they hope jolts the larger church.

"Out of respect and out of honor of his commitment to his family, he's done this," said the Rev. Robin Hynicka of Philadelphia's Arch Street United Methodist Church, where the meeting was held. "Talk about family values, right. Let's give it its due."

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