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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 17, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 07
New Jersey legislature OKs marriage
Christie snubs Gregoire's letter, promises veto
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New Jersey legislature OKs marriage
Christie snubs Gregoire's letter, promises veto

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The New Jersey Assembly passed its marriage equality bill on February 16 by a 42 to 33 vote.

The state's Senate already passed the bill on February 13, 24 votes to 16.

The bill now goes to Republican Governor Chris Christie, who has promised 'very swift action' to veto the bill.

'Today, the Legislature has brought us to the promised land,' said Steven Goldstein, chairman of the LGBT rights group Garden State Equality.

'We know the governor won't let us enter,' he continued, referring to Christie's threatened veto, 'but we finally behold the view of our dreams and we will never turn back.'

Washington Governor Christine Gregoire wrote to Christie in January, explaining why, as a Catholic like Christie, she came to support marriage equality, but he has not responded.

'I have been on a personal journey, because while I am governor, I am also Catholic,' Gregoire wrote in the January 31 letter to Christie. 'I've reached a point where I have found my place.'

Gregoire's office made the contents of the letter public after she signed Washington's marriage equality law.

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, told Bloomberg News he could not confirm whether Christie got the letter.

Gregoire also offered to phone the New Jersey governor and urge him not to veto New Jersey's marriage bill.

The Assembly debate was marked by emotional speeches from both sides, punctuated by applause from their respective supporters. Many Assembly members spoke to their own religious convictions.

One Democratic Assembly member, Cleopatra Tucker, said that as a deaconess in her church, she had 'struggled over this. ... I really had problems and struggled with this.'

Nevertheless, she decided that her religious beliefs were not the main issue, she said.

'This bill today is not a religious issue. It's a civil rights issue,' Tucker said.

Under New Jersey law, Democratic leaders in the legislature have until January 2014 to override the governor's veto.

Fifty-four votes in the Assembly and 27 in the Senate would be required to override Christie's veto. The pro-equality votes are well short of that number.

Democrats have been unsuccessful in past attempts to override Christie's vetoes, notably failing to reinstate a surtax on the state's millionaires.

Christie and most Republican lawmakers say they want same-sex marriage put to a popular vote. Democrats have contended that marriage is a civil right protected by the Constitution and therefore should not be subject to referendum.

Republican Senator Kip Bateman has already drafted a resolution to put same-sex marriage on the November ballot, but Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney stated he will not allow it to come to the floor for a vote.

Marriage equality supporters are in no hurry to go to the ballot, they say, even though polls indicate a majority of the state's voters support same-sex marriage.

Popular support for marriage equality in New Jersey is at an all-time high - 52% in favor to 42% opposed, according to one recent poll - but LGBT rights activists expect that number to continue to grow.

'Civil rights is incremental, civil rights is long-range, and you take one achievement at a time,' Goldstein said.

'Marriage equality in New Jersey is a matter of when - not if. New Jersey should choose to join the right side of history soon, because loving same-sex couples and their families should not have to wait any longer,' Lambda Legal said in a statement.

Other national LGBT groups also took a long-term view of the situation.

'If the governor sticks with his threat of a veto, Freedom to Marry will work throughout the entire remainder of the legislative session, supporting local families, leaders, and advocates as they make the case and win the extra handful of votes needed to override the veto and do right by these families,' Freedom to Marry stated.

'Governor Christie may veto this legislation, but he is out of step with the majority of voters on this issue. We will not give up until marriage equality becomes a reality in New Jersey,' HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement.

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Governor Gregoire signs marriage equality bill
------------------------------
New Jersey legislature OKs marriage
Christie snubs Gregoire's letter, promises veto

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