NJ Lesbian Couple Wins Public Accommodations Case

Methodist-affiliated venue discriminated when it denied space for civil union ceremony

A judge has ruled that an Ocean Grove lesbian couple suffered unlawful discrimination when the venue they chose for their civil union refused to host the ceremony on religious grounds. The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist-affiliated group with a picturesque boardwalk pavilion on the Jersey shore, told the Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster that their same-sex ceremony violated the group’s principles.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the couple, found that the association’s public venue had been rented for community events and fundraisers without incident. The Bernstein/Paster event was its first rejection.

The judge determined that the association, as a tax-exempt group, must allow access to the public and accept civil unions as a component of that access.

Bernstein said in a statement January 13 that she and Paster “had no idea that it would come to this” when they were scouting locations for their ceremony. “We weren’t asking the association to change their beliefs. We just wanted them to give us the same opportunity to use a beautiful space that we had seen open for public use.”

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