Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster of Ocean Grove, NJ filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights because  they were denied use of a boardwalk pavilion for their civil union ceremony by the owner of the venue, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist ministry.

The boardwalk, which is private property, has been rented out for marriages, but civil unions have been rejected because the pavilion is considered a religious structure and CU's “are not recognized in the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline.”

Well that's all find and dandy, except the land receives state tax-breaks, and now New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, after hearing from Garden State Equality, the ACLU of New Jersey and Ocean Grove United, revoked the tax-free status of pavilion. (365gay):

In a letter to DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson, Garden State Equality pointed out that New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination specifies that land receiving tax breaks must have open, nondiscriminatory access to the public.  

Two other organizations, the ACLU of New Jersey and Ocean Grove United also complained to the DEP.

In a letter to the Camp Meeting Association terminating its tax free status Jackson said that “it is clear that the Pavilion is not open to all persons on an equal basis.”

“The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association has only itself to blame for what will now be the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality.  “The question is, how much more hell will the Camp Meeting Association, and its national right-wing extremist backers, put the good people of Ocean Grove through?”

It should be noted that the tax exemption still applies to the rest of the boardwalk.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding