BY Julie Bolcer
August 31 2009 1:15 PM ET
The Press of Atlantic City offers a revealing look into the dynamics of the ground war building around marriage equality in New Jersey, where volunteers called Marriage Minutemen are fighting prospective same-sex marriage legislation through church-based volunteer activities aligned with antigay advocacy organizations.
New Jersey legislators are widely expected to consider a same-sex marriage bill in a lame duck session after the November gubernatorial election and before the January swearing-in ceremony.
In advance of the likely vote, the Marriage Minutemen have built a significant presence at the Chestnut Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church in Vineland, in the southern part of the state. The church is led by the Reverend Ralph Snook and his wife, Marilyn, who believe that gay people can be “cured.”
Chestnut Assembly of God was instrumental in asking the Vineland City Council to pass a resolution against same-sex marriage in 2008, following the city of Elizabeth, in northern New Jersey. The church works closely with the New Jersey Family Policy Council, a group that opposes marriage equality and coined the term Marriage Minutemen.
Some 10% of the state’s 1,400 Marriage Minutemen are believed to live and volunteer in Vineland. Their phone and letter writing campaign has not escaped marriage equality advocates, who are devoting time, attention, and resources to the area.