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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 13, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 02
Marriage equality bill introduced in New Jersey
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Marriage equality bill introduced in New Jersey

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Democratic leaders in New Jersey's state legislature introduced a new marriage equality bill on January 10.

A similar bill was defeated two years ago on a 20-14 vote, when some Democrats defected to the anti-equality side.

Current State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, abstained two years ago, helping to defeat the bill.

Now Sweeney says, 'I made a mistake.'

As a Roman Catholic, he considered the measure a religious question two years ago, he says, but now thinks of it as a civil rights issue.

'Well, it took a couple of years but Steve Sweeney and I are finally playing on the same team,' Garden State Equality President Steven Goldstein said. 'He's evolved just like the world has evolved.'

'You might call it the Andrew Cuomotization of legislators in New Jersey,' Goldstein added.

'Andrew Cuomo has set the stage for the legislature in New Jersey and in other states, by championing the cause or marriage equality not begrudgingly but with gusto. And that's happening in New Jersey now.'

In 2010, then-governor Jon Corzine, a Democrat, had promised to sign the bill into law if it passed. Current governor Chris Christie, a Republican and a Roman Catholic, is against marriage equality.

'I oppose it and I think it's the wrong thing to do,' Christie said after his election. He said if it came to his desk he would not sign it.

The governor's spokesperson, Michael Drewniak, declined to comment on the new bill. Democrats in the legislature are ready for a fight, they say.

'It's going be a fight,' Sweeney said. 'We expect it to be a fight. The governor's a decent person, and I think we can work on educating him to the fact of what it means.'

Even if Christie is not persuadable, Sweeney says he has the votes to pass the bill, and is prepared to override Christie's veto if necessary.

'We'll work to do what we have to do. We're going to work toward an override if necessary,' Sweeney promised. 'We have many more Democratic votes.'

Democratic leaders also rejected same-sex civil unions as a possible compromise.

'Civil unions send a message to the public that same-sex couples and their families are not equal to married couples in the eyes of the law,' New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said.

'It sends a message that same-sex couples are not good enough to warrant equality. This is the same wrong message we heard from segregation laws.'

Meanwhile, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) promised to go all out to defeat the measure.

NOM President Brian Brown told The Washington Times that his group was prepared to spend up to $500,000 to back state lawmakers who oppose the measure.

'The media is reporting that Gay marriage is sure to pass through the Legislature, but we heard the same false story in 2009 and 2010. The people of New Jersey can and will stop this bill,' Brown said.

John Tomicki, president of the anti-equality New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage, predicted another legislative defeat, regardless of Sweeney's change of heart.

'At this time, we still are confident they do not have the 21 votes for passage,' Tomicki said.

'Senate President Sweeney has clearly changed his position. But we would note for the record that whenever this issue has been put up for a vote by citizens in every other state, marriage has been uniquely upheld by the voters as a union of one man and one woman.'

New Jersey is the third state after Maryland and Washington to introduce a marriage equality bill in 2012.

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