The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, March 16, 2004  

District Attorney Pressing Charges Against Two Ministers

How far we have come. And so fast.

The Associated Press reports:

Two ministers were charged with criminal offenses yesterday for marrying 13 gay couples in what is believed to be the first time in U.S. history that clergy members have been prosecuted for performing same-sex ceremonies.

District Attorney Donald Williams [of Ulster County, N.Y.] said marriage laws made no distinction between public officials and members of the clergy who preside over wedding ceremonies.

Unitarian Universalist ministers Kay Greenleaf and Dawn Sangrey were charged with multiple counts of solemnizing a marriage without a license, the same charges leveled against New Paltz Mayor Jason West, who last month drew the state into the widening national debate over same-sex unions. The charges carry a fine of $25 to $500 or up to two years in jail. […]

Williams said he decided to press charges because the marriages were “drastically different” from religious ceremonies since Greenleaf and Sangrey publicly said they considered them civil. Some Unitarian ministers, Greenleaf included, were performing ceremonies for gay couples before the issue entered the national debate.

So is this what it’s come to? Arresting the clergy? Can anyone but the most fringy of the fringistas be pleased by such a development?

Many Americans, both black and white, object to parallels between the efforts of gays and people of color to achieve full civil rights (e.g., “Comparison is Wrong,” a letter to the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer by John A. Teets, Horsham, Pa.), but before long there will be no denying the obvious.

The battle to ban, block, and prevent gay marriage has yet to find its very own Bull Connor or Lester Maddox, but it’s not for lack of trying on the part of scores of aspirants, including Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.).

Musgrave, by the way, continues to write to me regularly. No, she’s not seeking a dialogue, she’s just asking for money.

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