New Jersey State Senate Passes Bill Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage; Gov. Christie Vows Veto
On the same day that Washington became the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage, the New Jersey state Senate passed a measure that would allow gay couples in the Garden State to marry. But Republican Governor Chris Christie has pledged to veto the bill.
The Huffington Post reports that the New Jersey state Senate voted 24-16 in favor of legalizing marriage equality, a stark reversal from a similar 2010 vote in which the same body rejected equality by a 20-14 vote.
“It is my opinion that our republic was established to guarantee liberty to all,” Jennifer Beck, a Republican from Red Bank who voted in favor of equality, told the Huffington Post. “It is our role to protect all of the people who live in our state.”
“It means the world isn’t changing, it means the world has already changed,” Steven Goldstein, chairman of the LGBT advocacy group Garden State Equality, told the Huffington Post. “So wake up and smell the equality.”
But opponents of the bill called it “an exercise in futility” since Republican Gov. Chris Christie said he would veto the measure if the state Assembly passes it and it lands on his desk.
Christie believes that such an important issue should be decided by voters, but leaving civil rights issues up to a popular vote all but guarantees that the majority will not act in the best interests of the minority or equality.
New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the state was required to give the legal protections of marriage to same-sex couples but did not have to call it marriage. The state enacted civil unions after the ruling, but equality advocates say that civil unions create a “separate but equal” situation that is inherently unequal.
The last time the state Senate voted on marriage equality, several last-minute defections killed the measure.
But this time around, some lawmakers had changes of heart, including Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Deptford), who has publicly admitted it was a mistake for him to oppose marriage equality. Sweeney pledged to make same-sex marriage a priority.
Supporters of same-sex marriage hope that they can rally enough lawmakers to overturn Christie’s expected veto. That would require two-thirds of both chambers of the legislature to act by the time the current session ends in January 2014.
Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) told the Huffington Post that is every lawmaker voted their conscience instead of bowing to political pressure, there would be enough votes to overturn the governor’s veto. Lesniak believes that some would switch positions due to the influence of gay people in their lives.
“You never know who’s going forward– a daughter, a son, a neighbor of significant meaning of a senator or assemblyperson– and change a mind,” he opined.
Seven states– Washington, New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont as well as Washington, DC and the Squamish and Coquille Native American tribes have all legalized same-sex marriage.
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