Glen Ridge Mayor Divorces Himself From Civil Unions

Baristaville mayors now have authority to perform civil union ceremonies for same sex couples who choose to legally tie the knot. Montclair Mayor Ed Remsen says he approves of the law and will perform civil unions. Mayor Ray McCarthy tells Bloomfield Life that he accepts the new gay civil union laws. Glen Ridge’s Mayor Carl Bergmanson, however, has other ideas, and tells Baristanet he will not be performing civil union ceremonies, because “it’s a fraud.”


“I have nothing against homosexuality. I object in principal to the law. It’s an artificial construct, and I’m not participating in this farce,” Bergmanson says.
“To create same sex marriage and call it a civil union is dishonest. The law was very clumsily written and tap dances around the issue. Civil unions are same sex marriages – why aren’t they calling it such? Mine is not a nuance position…I am not going to say the emperor’s wearing clothes when he’s not. Future generations are going to ask how we could participate in this fiction. I’m just not going to do it.”
Despite his feelings, Bergmanson assured us that anyone will be able to come to Glen Ridge and obtain a civil union license. In the meantime, he has requested a legal opinion of interpretation of the law and plans to meet with the attorney general’s office. And Glen Ridgers might want to look here to find their celebrant.

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61 COMMENTS

  1. If he’s saying what I think he’s saying, then i totally agree. Separate but equal has proven to be a BAD policy in the past. Even if gays who wish to get married are afforded the same rights as heterosexuals, exactly the same rights even, the term “marriage” has some equity to it, if it didn’t, so many people wouldn’t be against calling same sex unions marriage.
    Until the law is written correctly, and until everyone has the same rights, Bergmanson’s got the right idea.

  2. While I initially felt disappointed that our mayor was not going to perform the ceremonies, I agree completely with his reasoning. Until all marriages are called civil unions, or all civil unions are called marriages, there is indeed a double standard.

  3. what a inflamatory headline. As I glanced at it I initially thought the mayor was this homophobic boob, but once you open the article it is completely the opposite. Shame on Barista for posting it in such a way.

  4. I have to agree with kim. That headline had my knickers all in a twist before I read further
    I say good for Bergmanson. He’s absolutely right to point out the double standard. I give him a lot of credit because I’m sure he realizes that his refusal to perform civil unions can and probably will be misconstrued by many.

  5. While I totally agree that civil unions should be called marriage (or, conversely, marriages of heterosexual couples performed by civic means be called civil unions) I think it is nevertheless an important step toward same-sex marriage. Twenty years or so from now I don’t doubt that same-sex marriage will be legal in most states and the “civil union” idea will have gone the way of miscegenation laws. But sometimes things are taken in smaller steps rather than one full stride and each step is a vast improvement over what went before. Let’s hope the next step will come very soon so we will have true justice in America.

  6. I have to agree with kim:
    what a inflamatory headline. (surprise!)
    I say good for Bergmanson, too.

  7. You’re right in recognizing that these changes often come in small steps rather than great strides, but at the same time, I feel like “Civil union” is just safe term created to pacify people on both sides of the debate. My fear is that this important issue will slip away if not pushed forward right now, while it’s still in the public spotlight. I think the mayor is doing the right thing here, I just hope that the gay community in the area feels that way.

  8. I don’t always agree with Mr Bermanson, but this time, I have to say, YOU GO, CARL. I like a man who stands up for what he believes, even if it is not the completely P.C. way of thinking….

  9. Yes, what an inflamatory headline! To have an initial incorrect thought or to have one’s knickers all in a twist, even for the scant seconds it takes to read the correct information is far more than one’s sensibilities can or should be asked to handle. If the Barista continues to headline articles in this manner, without a conspicuous disclaimer, I (and I hope many others) shall continue to comment on it until the point is taken. I really mean it!

  10. I think civilly-joined couples should just go ahead and call themselves “married.” The state can’t call it marriage, but what’s to stop the people themselves from calling it that?

  11. I agree with Appletony. You have everything but the name…so just start using it! Just start referring to yourselves as married. The more you do it, the more ingrained and “acceptable” it will become. The quicker this happens, the quicker there will be less objection to formally adopting it.

  12. half a loaf is better than none … best can be the enemy of better … like abortions, if you don’t like them, you don’t have to have one

  13. appletony,
    I have to disagree with you there. While there’s nothing wrong with gay couples calling themselves “married”, the mayor√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s point is that in the eyes of the state they are still NOT “married”. The law itself needs to change, not the semantics.

  14. As a gay resident of Glen Ridge, I commend the mayor on his position that separate is not equal, and that gay couples should be able to marry.
    But I disagree strongly with the Mayor’s remedy, which is to deny gay couples their existing rights under law. Yes, gay couples will be able to obtain a civil union license in Glen Ridge, but just like a mariage license, a civil union license does not grant any rights under law until the ceremony authorized by the license is performed. Thus, by refusing to perform civil union ceremonies, the Mayor is not providing a guarantee that civil union licenses will be honored in Glen Ridge.
    There have been like minded mayors in other towns who felt that mariage should reach same sex couples. The Mayors of San Francisco, CA; New Paltz, NY; and Atlantic City, NJ chose to issue marriage licenses to make their views on equality known.
    In other words, these mayors expanded the rights available to gay couples under law, they did not restrict them.
    In so doing, these mayors provided the bases for legal arguments and press dicussions that moved the gay marriage debate forward. These mayors are civil rights heroes.
    I can tell the Mayor what his lawyers will tell him: if he chooses to perform marriage ceremonies, he is legally obligated to perform civil union ceremonies. The law is not unclear, the issues are not unclear; perhaps only the political choices to be made are unclear.
    So, to my friend and neighbor Carl Bergmanson, I make this offer: if you want to take a stand for equality, if you want to take a stand that says that civil unions are discriminatory, then start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples and performing marriage ceremonies. I am sure that Lambda Legal and Garden State Equality would work with you to make the powerful statement you seem to want to make, be it in the way i recommend or via another strategy that you jointly elect.
    But please, don’t turn gay couples away if they ask you to perform a civil union ceremony. As noble as your motives are, your plan will just make you part of the problem.

  15. Eric,
    Very interesting. Thank you for the clarification. Let’s hope the mayor chooses to follow the powerful example of the others you’ve mentioned.

  16. I pretty much agree with Alan Glube’s post (√¢‚Ǩ≈ìhalf a loaf is better than none … best can be the enemy of better … like abortions, if you don’t like them, you don’t have to have one√¢‚Ǩ¬ù). However, I applaud the mayors√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ willingness to take a stand for what is ultimately the correct opinion concerning this law. It is true that the new law is absolutely better than nothing, but we need to continue the push for true marriage equality. Although I think the governments role in all this should be to confer Civil Union licenses to ALL couples (leave the marriage stuff to the clergy), the reality is and will continue to be much different. In our culture only the word √¢‚Ǩ≈ìmarriage√¢‚Ǩ¬ù is recognized as the ultimate way society sanctions a couple√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s status as fully committed and deserving all of its√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ rights, privileges and respect.
    Also, given all the attention mayors from “the other side” have garnered (such as Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan), it’s somewhat nice to know there are elected officials out there willing to take the heat for feeling strongly in favor of equal rights for everybody. Having said that, I assume Mayor Bergmanson realizes that by refusing to perform civil union ceremonies he is most likely precluding himself from officiating at all marriage ceremonies.

  17. I am also a gay resident of Glen Ridge. I have mixed feelings about our Mayor’s opinion and I am not sure I am convinced that his stance is one of total equality and justice or just an excuse to hide his discomfort with the issue. Last week in the Glen Ridge paper, he was quoted as saying that he would not perform civil ceremonies because he was not looking for “more to do” and now he is saying he doesn’t want to “participate in this fiction.” If he wants to take a strong stance for equality and justice, than I think he needs to review Eric’s insightful comments and take some action.
    If our mayor performs marriage ceremonies than I fully expect him to perform civil unions as well. If he wants to take a stance for equal rights, he needs to say he will perform no ceremonies until they are all the same.
    The law may not be perfect but it is a step forward. It provides my partner, my daughter and me more rights and protection than what we had yesterday. And, it would mean more to me as a gay resident of Glen Ridge if our mayor honored it than not.

  18. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to respond to this thread. First of all, while I fully support equality under the law for all of our citizens, regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Preference or Gender Identity, if its failings with regard to those things were the only things I objected to about this new law, I would probably adopt the “half-a-loaf” philosophy, and support the law, while pushing to have it fixed, especially because I think that it will eventually be changed, and probably sooner rather than later.
    I have an additional objection to this law that is much more basic than that. This law creates same-sex marriage, but then calls it something else. For me to perform these “Civil-Unions” would, in my mind, make me a party to that fraud. I’m sure that most of us have looked back at people of earlier times and wondered: “What were these people thinking?” or “Why didn’t folks stand up and speak out against this nonsense?” I’m sure that many of us have also felt that if we had lived in those times, we would have refused to participate and spoken up. I believe that this is one of those times, and I feel it is important that I stand up and be counted.
    That said, it is pretty easy for me to do so, I don’t “have a horse in this race.” Because, as Greg rightly points out, same-sex couples, and their families, will gain many important protections and benefits if they get civil unions, I would never recommend that they forego those protections solely to “make a statement.” And I would certainly never let my personal stand interfere with them doing so. Same-sex couples will be able to get their “Civil-Union” licenses at Borough Hall, and while I personally will not be performing “Civil-Union” ceremonies, we will maintain a list of officiants who are willing to do so, so people being “turned-away” is not an issue. And, of course, both the town and I personally will fully honor all the rights and protections afforded to all of our citizens who have “Civil-Unions” performed.
    Eric, I am still researching what my options are, that’s the reason I’m trying to set up a meeting with the AG’s office. Issuing marriage licenses is not done by the Mayor, so issuing them to same-sex couples is not an option for me. I may offer to perform marriages for same-sex couples who present me with “Civil-Union” licenses, or I may refuse to perform “Civil-Unions” or I may simply refuse to perform any ceremonies, or I may come up with some other solution. It is important for me to explore the legal ramifications involved (not just for me, but for the town and the couples involved) and listen to feedback from our citizens and then I’ll decide on a course of action.
    Greg, you referred to the article in the GR Voice, let me put some context to that. The original proposal that I had heard was that ceremonies would not be required for “Civil-Unions”. When the reporter for the Voice called and asked if I would be performing “Civil-Unions”, I explained to him that I had not yet seen the final bill, and that I expected to have some problems with it, but that since ceremonies were optional, it was a moot point in any case, since I’m not looking for more things to do. When the article appeared, I immediately called the reporter to clarify my position because it seemed to me that the way it was phrased and positioned with the quote from Eric, if misread, the article might have given some the impression that I was taking a less than fully pro-equality position. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have, from a very early age, been a strong advocate for equal treatment under the law for all of our citizens, and I was active in the drive to protect all NJ citizens from discrimination regardless of their sexual orientation. I have always, and will always, fully support full equality under the law for all of our citizens.

  19. Dear Carl,
    We ALL have a “horse in this race”.
    It should affect ALL of us that some of us are not being treated equally.

  20. I could not agree more with the comment above.
    As a resident of Glen Ridge for the past 23 years I fel that for the community as a whole, it DOES affect all of us that some of us are not being treated equally…

  21. Of course, I obviously agree. My point was that it does not directly impact me in the same way it would someone who was contemplating getting a “Civil-Union.”

  22. As a resident in Glen Ridge im appalled to see such an influx of so many gay couples in a family community…
    It shouldn’t be allowed for the simple reason that we dont want this town turning into ” Greenwich Village “.

  23. I could not ask for a more compelling and complete explanation of why gay people need equality now than Hiding in Baristaville has provided.
    Carl, it’s great to know that the town will be providing gay couples with a list of officiants who will perform civil unions in Glen Ridge. That is new and welcome information.
    I also reiterate my offer to reach out to Lamdba Legal and Garden State Equality on your behalf for additional sources of legal support and guidance as you move forward.

  24. Yah, real great!! I didn’t know Glen Ridge was becoming so liberal! There is too much money flying around here mayor to allow this controversy into our town… What equality? Go to Greenwich Village if you want equality!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. To the troll trying to turn a thoughtful discussion about civil unions into a war of words about gay folks in GR: go back to playing Space Invaders in your mom’s basement. You’re not wanted here.
    To everyone else: I think this has, so far, been a really wonderful discussion stemming from an article that was misleading and sensationalistic. It’s really nice to see.

  26. If you have an actual point to make, make it! A healthy debate is a good thing. Naked ignorance is not.
    Yep. Space Invaders. Boop. Boop. Beep.

  27. “Of course, I obviously agree. My point was that it does not directly impact me in the same way it would someone who was contemplating getting a “Civil-Union.”
    Posted by: Carl Bergmanson | December 29, 2006 1:03 PM ”
    Oh come on Carl, most of us have friends, relatives or loved ones who will have to have a civil union instead of a marriage.
    You don’t have to be gay to be impacted, affected and offended.

  28. Carl, if I may Most of us ” DO NOT ” have friends that require a civil union.. Speak for yourself hiding…

  29. would you like to take a poll- HEY BARISTA WANT TO JUMP IN HERE??
    I bet we can prove you wrong.
    And by the way Hiding, if you have kids you may not know that you have a loved one that will need a civil union for quite some time!!

  30. What’s instilled into the minds of children is what they will use as their guide in life.. If you condone particular/many lifestyles then you provide your children with many unstructured paths.. To each his own! As far a im concerned God created Adam & Eve! Sorry, but I pay large taxes too, and certainly not to see this..

  31. My money is being paid to live in a respectable community ( where it is practiced that God created One man and One woman)..When you try to turn Glen Ridge into Montclair then it is no longer a respectable community. It’s truly a small “Greenwich Village”. Not allowing this controversy into our town preserves it’s meaning.
    Montclair is Montclair, as Glen Ridge is Glen Ridge, people should make that distinction before they move here so that their children can be afforded a good education. Children are offered a good education here because of it’s morals and values which creates a solid foundation. Even though the mayor has other reasons for not performing these cerominies it’s still enough for me to be satisfied that this small town isn’t going to be tainted. Once it is, im sure that people will reconsider their future here. Furthermore, once the established residents decide to leave this town, it will no longer offer respect, morals,and prestige. Let it be known that some have grown quite tired of you liberals forcing your lifestyles and demands down people’s throats. See it now?? Probably not, but that’s your business…

  32. You should be living in an all Christian Gated Community.
    Are you saying that there are no criminals or people of questionalbe morals living in Glen Ridge? No perverts, child molesters, addicts, theives, embezzlers, wife beaters, people who run red light, tax cheats???
    What does ones sexual preference have to do with morality?
    God created heterosexuals and gay folks. Do you question what he created?

  33. Carl,
    Please note that the gay hater above sees your not performing civil unions as a vote for his/her type of “morality”.
    I would much rather live in a RESPECTFUL COMMUNITY, respectful of everyone’s rights than a RESPECTABLE COMMUNITY that has no respect for anyone’s rights.

  34. Not a gay hater dear, A civilized promoter.. Your a bit hostile and let the record show the issues that come along with such a lifestyle.. God creates all man but whether man chooses to follow his “word” is another issue..Montclair is a respectable community, real estate is booming there.. Have a nice life!!

  35. it’s all good until someone opposes..People don’t express your opinion because it might offend someone. Just accept the obnoxious fumes and choke on them……

  36. I’ve been following this thread since the beginning and I must say the comments of Hiding in Baristaville are more than a bit amusing. Before moving to New Jersey the only facts I knew about Glen Ridge was that it was the home of esteemed scientologist Tom Cruise and a bunch a high school football players raped a mentally handicapped girl in the basement of a house there. Respectable community indeed.

  37. My point is that da-nile is not just a river in Egypt, and an influx of gay citizens is far from the root of any moral deterioration you perceive to exist in your town.

  38. My point is that da-nile is not just a river in Egypt, and an influx of gay citizens is far from the root of any moral deterioration you perceive to exist in your town.

  39. false! I refuse to discuss this matter directly or indirectly at this point. Your arguments are lame. Mayor, I am simply objecting to brining a freak show in this town where problems are FAR and FEW in between.. You wanted feedback from residents. However, some believe that certain residents aren’t entitled to express their beliefs or desires if it doesn’t coincide with theirs.

  40. Hiding, your freedoms end where others’ freedoms begin. And from your comments it seems you would like to limit the freedoms of gay citizens to enjoy the same rights and privileges as you do. Calling civil unions (or gay marriage) a “freak show” is hardly showing any tolerance for other opinions than your own. Worry about your own problems and stop worrying about the “respectability” of the town you live in. Personally I think the town would be more “respectable” if you did not live in it. “Respectable” implies respect, and you don’t show any for your fellow human beings.

  41. ” Freedom of speech”
    Be who you want to be but not on my tax dollars. I dont pay high taxes to comfort you or your lifestyle! Call what you like but your obnoxious fumes are gagging me. This is my problem and I am appalled to have my hometown tainted with garbage mouths..

  42. You should move then and let someone else take up your tax burden.
    Good luck at finding a town without gays and lesbians and their “taint” to the community

  43. I’ll be right on it! I don’t have to move I voted for “Bush”.
    The only one ” split” here is you in more ways than one..

  44. So, what’s controversial? Vance driving home from the club a few sheets to the wind? Marge late picking up the kids because she got held up at her “massage” appointment? Your daughters trying same-sex encounters at college? Your son buying an exam so he can get the grades he needs to qualify for that Wall Street internship? Please don’t tell me your too small town doesn’t already have all these problems and more. So if a few loving couples want to tie the knot, that’ll throw the balance all to hooey? Phooey!

  45. These comments are becoming more & more meaningless & have little to do with the topic. If you have a point, make it. Otherwise, go find a chat room to play in.

  46. My Fellow New Jerseyans
    I am a gay American..
    Even though I have been married twice to women and have not yet been divorced from my second wife, I support civil unions.
    And I may even do one.

  47. Hiding in Baristaville, no wonder you’re hiding! With opinions like yours, you’re hardly likey to win friends and influence people hereabouts.
    I really doubt Glen Ridge, or New Jersey for that matter, is the place for you. Before you embarrass yourself further, you might want to consider relocating to someplace where folks share your Nazi-in-all-but-name sympathies.
    See you in Church!

  48. I wonder if these Barista folks get paid by the number of posts per “story” they place on their site. They are probably the ones making most of the controverial statements just to keep this going. My number one resolution for 07 is to stay off this site. There is nothing positive here.

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