My mind tends to take widely separated things and fit them together. I see one thing and store it mentally. Later, sometimes much later, I see another thing that others have not associated with the first, and put them together. You might think of this as being like the old Chinese family-dining restaurants' menu: one item from Column A plus one from Column B, and you've got a meal. Do they still have such menus? I usually order Chinese from takeout places (generally, in my neighborhood, China House on South Orange Avenue).
So let's combine various items to see how they might benefit Newark.
Grace Church and City Hall, nearby, office and residential towers beyond.On November 30th, 2006, I discussed an opinion piece in the New York Daily News that anticipated that New Jersey might experience an economic benefit if it passed same-sex civil-union or, especially, marriage legislation. We've had civil-union legislation in place for almost two years, but it has not produced such a benefit, because "civil union" has no magic to stir men's hearts, especially in that people in some places outside New Jersey could not even begin to hope that such "unions" would be recognized in their own area if their home jurisdiction has no comparable institution. I anticipated as much on December 18, 2006. In that day's entry, I show the text of an email I sent to Governor Corzine and other officials, which in part asked if the State would allow "marriage" to whites but only "civil union" to blacks. I also made this further point:
a one-word change from "civil union" to "civil marriage" [as distinct from religious marriage, which the State cannot compel] could work. But the word "marriage" does matter. New Jerseyans should settle for nothing less. Can we really be less courageous than Massachusetts?Now I'd have to ask "... than Massachusetts and California?", and the answer would still, sadly, be "Yes, New Jersey can definitely be less courageous." But maybe we will soon act courageously.
George Washington was here. Really. His statue is still in the park we named for him, Downtown.On February 17th of this year, the Star-Ledger published a report on a State commission tasked to evaluate the impact of "civil unions", which were intended to fix the problem of institutional discrimination against same-sex couples. The commission found that civil unions are not well understood by the general public, and only "marriage" would really accomplish equal treatment under law.
Four days later, Newsday.com reported that Governor Corzine is willing to sign a same-sex "marriage" law but not until after the November election, because he didn't want gay marriage to be used by rightwingers to distort the Presidential and Congressional races this year. (It seems that neither of those articles is still online, which is the only reason I don't link to them so you can check them yourself.) I remarked that California's action pretty well let that cat out of the bag, but I haven't even heard much about gay marriage in the national election. Have you? Perhaps the antigay Radical Right feels California is too big to pick on.
(Close view of the Puritan in Gutzon Borglum's Indian and Puritan at the northern end of Washington Park. Newark was founded in 1666 by Puritans from Connecticut.) The sexual conscience of this country is still dominated by the Puritanism of early settlers — even tho our media are filled with storylines about fornication and adultery, and images of suggestive lewdness, even explicit obscenity on cable; the Internet is filled with porn; (straight) divorces rival or exceed marriages; and the typical person lies about matters large and small without guilt. Given the disconnect between old-time virtues and modern realities, society should be pleased that one group that has been libertine wants now to embrace marriage, permanence, stability. Maybe gay marriage will strengthen straight resolve to make their own marriages work.So why is the Legislature, why is the Governor, sitting on their hands as to passing same-sex "marriage" legislation?
OK, that's Column A.
St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Roseville.On September 29th (2007), I noticed that the Episcopal Church is by far the most gay-friendly church around here, with two major churches on Broad Street, Downtown (Trinity & St. Philip's Cathedral and Grace Church).+
On December 19th, I noticed that the paint on the steeple of the Episcopal cathedral is flaking, a clear sign of economic distress in Newark's Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church is the old-line church of the WASP Establishment, and they are in short supply in today's Newark.
Newark has a major international airport 4 miles from Downtown.
Former banquet hall now a church on Lower Broad Street. I forget the name of this hall, and couldn't find it in my records. But it used to host a lot of wedding receptions decades before I got to Newark.Let's put this all together, and create a new industry for Newark: same-sex marriage, with benefits to gay wedding planners, d.j.'s, local bands, etc. Couples could come from all over the East (and even parts of Latin America and elsewhere), who don't care to travel to California and cannot marry in Massachusetts because that state requires residency (New Jersey's legislation must not!). They could get married not just in Municipal Court or at a nonreligious chapel, but actually in a CATHEDRAL (okay, so it's a small cathedral, but it's still a cathedral), have a reception for family and friends at a nearby hotel (the Gateway Hilton and Robert Treat are very close in),* then take a limo 15 minutes to board a plane to Hawaii, Niagara Falls, Europe, the Caribbean (or anyplace else on Earth) for their honeymoon. And people drawn into Newark to attend a wedding might well be happy to take in a game or concert at Prudential Center, or a show at NJPAC or Symphony Hall, or check out the Newark Museum, galleries, etc. NJPAC and the Downtown hotels have meeting rooms that could host nonreligious weddings as well as receptions from Trinity Cathedral or Grace Church. It's a natural.
How's this for a place for a wedding and/or reception, a great big white tent in the garden of the Newark Museum? Rental of that tent for a wedding/reception could include free admission to the Museum for all invited guests, affording the Museum a chance to impress people who have never been there, so that when they go back to Tulsa or Indianapolis they will tell their friends what a great time they had, and what a wonderful place the Newark Museum is.Broadway stars and other gay celebrities who live in Manhattan might find it very congenial to hop across the Hudson to "make if official". I hesitate to mention it, but gay comedians especially might like to get married in Newark, because Newark is, as of now, a laugh line, and I'm sure inventive gay (and straight) comedians could do many a riff on Newark as gay-marriage mecca — which would only increase business.
If Trinity & St. Philip's charged a modest fee for use of the sanctuary for same-sex weddings, by Episcopal priests or even by clergy of other denominations in ecumenical outreach, the Diocese might make enuf money to paint the steeple, and maybe also spiff up other parts of that building or other Episcopalian churches throughout Newark.
In looking for pix of the cathedral, I came across this foto of a disturbing vignette I witnessed in May outside Trinity & St. Philip's. On the right you will see an elderly man very badly bent over from scoliosis, osteoporosis, or something. But this old Newarker perseveres, and isn't even using the cane he carries. I found it sad and heartening at the same time, not specially relevant to the topic today, but I don't imagine I will ever have a topic for this particular foto, so I'm using it now.I'm not visualizing tacky wedding chapels with Elvis impersonators in cowboy hats and chaps, or full leather and motorcycle hat, or jeans and a hardhat (well, I guess I am visualizing that, but don't want it to happen). I'm talking about dignified, solemn but joyous wedding ceremonies and celebrations in a place ideally suited to become the gay wedding capital of the East Coast. There's money in them thaar homos! (I can say that. You might have to be careful.)
The lited top of 744 Broad Street beckons. Get gay people and their friends to Newark for a wedding, and they may come back for other things, especially if they have to stay overnite and fill time, so discover that there are things to do in Newark, even at nite.
* I initially intended to say "hard on" the cathedral, but thought better of it. There are some perfectly innocent expressions of long standing that we can't use anymore.