New Jersey Latest Battleground for Same Sex Marriage

Posted: Jan 07, 2010 12:01 AM
New Jersey Latest Battleground for Same Sex Marriage

A bill to permit same sex-marriage in New Jersey is dead in the water as soon as Republican governor-elect Chris Christie takes office on January 19. So advocates have scheduled a vote in the state Senate today, before outgoing Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine leaves office.

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This last lame-duck Senate vote probably won’t spell success for gay marriage advocates. Estimates peg only 17 of the body’s 39 legislators as supporting the bill. But since that number is uncertain, over $1.5 million has been spent in lobbying efforts in the state. By comparison, $2.1 million was spent in Washington State’s gay marriage effort, despite having about 25% fewer residents. New Jersey has permitted civil unions for three years.

Senate President Richard Codey, a Democrat, sounded optimistic about Thursday’s vote, despite having cancelled a vote just a month ago on the issue after he wasn’t able to round up enough “yes” votes. That cancelled vote also didn’t seem to deter sponsor Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), who was amping up the rhetoric in the final hours leading up to the critical session.

“Tomorrow’s vote will determine whether tens of thousands of New Jerseyans are able to live in peace and happiness, the same way that other New Jerseyans have always been permitted to live their lives,” she said. “This vote is bigger than party, and it’s bigger than politics.”

Even if it does pass the Senate, the measure must pass the State Assembly, where it’s unknown how many legislators would support it. But supporters and detractors alike have been lobbying on the issue since it was first introduced in early 2009. The New Jersey Family Policy, the Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage, and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays have come out against the same-sex marriage bill, with the Garden State Equality lobbying for it.

New Jersey Family Policy Council (NJFPC) President Len Deo said that gay marriage was not necessary because civil unions already exist.

“The equal rights and protections already guaranteed by New Jersey law substantiate the fact that the issue at stake is not one of equality but of hijacking the definition of marriage,” Deo said in a statement. “If something so foundational to society is radically redefined to serve 0.04% of the population, then that can hardly be qualified as true equality.”

The group Garden State Equality made news for releasing a string of advertisements that highlighted the plight of children of gay parents. Garden State Equality’s videos make the claim that civil unions are not enough for New Jersey’s gay couples and that anything short of marriage is discriminatory.

Polls have New Jersey residents slightly more opposed to gay marriage than in favor. The latest poll in November had 49 percent of adults opposed, 46 percent in favor and 6 percent undecided.