The deadline in New Jersey for legalizing same-sex marriage is Oct 21. Afterwards, the state will become the 14th in line of 13 other states to allow gay marriage. Although Gov. Chris Christie is calling for an appeal, gay marriage seems to be getting unexpected acceptance, directly from religious clergy.
Traditionally and historically, religious clergy from various faiths and denominations have opposed the very nature of homosexuality. The practice for centuries has been deemed a form of sexual immorality. However, in modern times, the demonization of such sexuality appears to be in reverse by some faiths and denominations.
"I'm pro gay marriage" said Rabbi Israel Dresner, a retired rabbi of the Reform Jewish Temple Beth Tikvah of Wayne NJ. Dresner, who marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s also said, "Religion has to change with the change in times and views and ethical concepts."
Rabbi Dresner hasn't been the only clergy voicing his acceptance of same-sex relations. In 2009, the Washington Post reported that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, after a 559-451 vote, allowed gay clergy to remain at their post, as long as their same-sex relationships were monogamous.
In 2012, according to a CNN article, the Episcopal Church also allowed for the blessing of same-sex couples. This allowance could not cover marriage due to same-sex marriage restrictions amongst the states. However, the blessing is based on theological understandings of remaining faithful and committed. 76% of clergy approved the provision.
A separate CNN report also revealed a former Catholic priest resigning from his post due to his opposition of Catholic views towards gays. He was a pro gay marriage advocate, but felt his duties as priest, conflicted with his position to allow gays the legal right to marry.
American Catholics have seemed to change their views as well. Aside from Catholic clergy, the same article revealed that 59% of Catholics were in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. The most common reason was that these Catholics felt homosexuality was a human nature that could not be changed.
Recently, Pope Francis was quoted as seemingly accepting same-sex relations. When asked about rumors of a gay Vatican lobby, the Pope turned the conversation to general homosexuality saying, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” His comments saw him as a refreshing diversion from his past predecessors to some.
Of course, same-sex relations in modern times still have its critics. Both the Presbyterian and United Methodist churches struck down the allowance of gay clergy within their places of worship. Many clergy leaders hold firm to their biblical and spiritual convictions.
The bible itself makes references to homosexuality. Some references are direct, while others appear to be indirect. The most well known passage in the Torah section of scripture reads, "And you will not lay with a male, rather than a woman. It is an abomination." Rabbi Dresner calls this a 'half verse' saying, "It only applies to men, it doesn't apply to lesbians."
However, a more indirect verse against homosexuality appears in the Torah that reads, "A woman must not put on a man's clothing, nor will a man wear a woman's clothing." In terms of the New Testament, homosexuality is spoken against for both men and women in Paul's epistle to the Romans.
"There are a lot of biblical views that are not kept by everybody" said Dresner. His point is to say, so why keep the opposed view of homosexuality in the bible? Dresner said, "I have no problem with gay marriage. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals; and marriage is a part of that equality."
Rabbi Dresner recently met with President Obama for the 50th anniversary march on Washington. A march that Dresner took part in 50 years ago. Equality was his aim then, and it seems to be his aim now. "150 years ago, there were people who thought the bible meant that black people had to be kept slaves" said Dresner.
Such an interpretation of scripture was not too far in the past. Just as President Obama spoke of political change, Rabbi Dresner speaks of gay marriage change with optimism. "Things change and they change for the better sometimes; and this is one of the better changes."
Various clergy leaders in New Jersey were asked to participate in this article, but all declined.