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February 14, 2007

Will NJ G/L/B/T gamblers take their gaming dollars to PA?

By Constance Lavender

AC Board's support of state bill aimed at circumventing civil unions may further deflate casino revenues

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Instead of finding ways to provide its gay and lesbian employees equitable benefits packages comparable to their heterosexual counterparts, the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders has unanimously passed a resolution supporting a state Senate and a General Assembly bill that aims to circumvent, if not plainly subvert, New Jersey's historic civil unions law. The Freeholder Board of this southern New Jersey county---that includes Atlantic City, a town that bills itself as cosmopolitan and a "world-class destination"---passed a resolution with unanimous support from its members in favor of two state legislative initiatives that would allow local officials to discriminate against same-sex couples by not performing civil unions even though these same officials perform heterosexual civil ceremonies. The chief sponsor of the freeholder's resolution, Sue Schilling of Brigantine, NJ, is a member of the Community Presbyterian Church of Brigantine which advertises its "welcoming" attitude towards gays and lesbians. Schilling's sponsorship calls into question her faith and whether or not it squares with the stated aims of her church. She is also the freeholder representative to the Commission on Women, Disabled Citizens Advisory Board, Human Services Advisory Council, and is a second alternate to the New Jersey Association of Counties. (Schilling's official email is listed as schilling_sue@aclink.org ). Some legal experts say that the measure would be a violation of New Jersey's anti-discrimination law, and would certainly undermine the intent of the 4-3 New Jersey Supreme Court decision that forced the state legislature to pass the civil unions law. In that decision, Justice Barry T. Albin ruled for the majority that "the unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated under our state Constitution..." The court found that the New Jersey legislature "...must either amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples or create a parallel statutory structure..." The Atlantic County Freeholders' resolution, sponsored by Republican Schilling, clearly subverts the intent of the New Jersey Supreme Court and is the worst kind of political pandering to religious and social conservatives. But a unanimous vote by the county's freeholders---both Republican and Democrat---under the ill-advised leadership of Schilling, supports these two bills that would effectively ignore the rule of law in New Jersey. The resolution urges passage of state legislation allowing NJ public officials---already ethically challenged as amply demonstrated by recent corruption investigations and convictions by the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Chris Christie---to simply ignore the law for political gain. Presumably many supporters of the civil unions law will find Schilling's and the Atlantic County Freeholder Board's action in supporting this ill-conceived resolution, disgusting and reprehensible. Many will remember the freeholders actions when they vote in the upcoming freeholder and county executive elections scheduled for this coming November. The negative publicity comes at a bad time for Atlantic City: the gaming mecca's dominance has been recently challenged by neighboring states that have legalized gambling. AC's latest gambling revenues were down significantly from the previous year. Many G/L/B/T New Jerseyans may further drive down revenues by taking their gambling dollars to Philadelphia, a much more gay-friendly and tolerant locale. Constance Lavender February 10, 2007 Updated 2/11/07 10am Send a letter to the editor of the AC Press on this issue at: Voice of the People The Press Editorial Page 11 Devins Lane Pleasantville, NJ 08232 For more information, call (609) 272-7266 or 272-7267 letters@pressofac.com Sincerely, Constance Lavender

Submitters Website: http://www.blogger.com/profile/4236373

Submitters Bio:

Constance Lavender is an HIV-Positive pseudonymous freelance e-journalist from a little isle off the coast of Jersey; New Jersey, that is...

In the Best spirit of Silence Dogood and Benj. Franklin, Ms. Lavender believes that a free country is premised on a free press.

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