Tuesday, January 10, 2012

NJ Lawmakers Set Marriage Equality As Legislative Priority

Garden State Equality, New Jersey's leading Lesbian and Gay political organization, announced that majority leaders in both houses of the New Jersey legislature have decided to fast-track passage of a marriage equality bill, A. 1 and S.1.
(Trenton, NJ, January 9, 2012) – Today New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney and House Speaker Sheila Oliver announced that they will fast-track and prioritize legislation that would end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage in New Jersey.  The announcement was made at a press conference today in which Freedom to Marry’s National Campaign Director Marc Solomon offered the  organization’s full support in helping secure passage of the law.

The below is an excerpt from Solomon’s remarks: 

“Freedom to Marry is proud to partner with Garden State Equality and New Jersey’s tremendous legislative leaders, Senate President Sweeney and House Speaker Oliver, as we work together to make New Jersey the next state to end the exclusion of gay couples from marriage.  What New Jersey’s legislative leaders are telling us clearly today is that the Garden State values its gay and lesbian citizens fully, and does not accept treating same-sex couples and their families as second class citizens, as it presently does with civil unions.  Marriage matters for same-sex couples and their families, both because it says we’re a family through thick and thin in a way that nothing else does, and because it provides a critical safety-net of protections that civil unions do not.”

Following the 2006 passage of civil union legislation, the 2008 New Jersey Civil Union Commission concluded there was “overwhelming evidence that civil unions will not be recognized by the general public as the equivalent of marriage in New Jersey with the passage of time.”  It recommended enacting marriage in its place.  

The House and Senate bills (respectively numbered A. 1 and S. 1) are expected to be taken up early this year.  The numbering of the bills reflects the importance which the legislative leaders are giving to the effort.
Interestingly, Republican Governor Chris Christie has repeatedly announced that he would veto any marriage equality bill that the legislature passed and even before he was sworn in, Governor-elect Christie was instrumental in preventing the passage of a marriage equality bill in a lame duck session which Governor Jon Corzine would have signed into law.

Another sign of the widespread support for marriage equality in the Garden State is that the entire 7-member Democratic congressional delegation sent a letter supporting marriage equality and urging fast passage of the pending legislation.

Hopefully 2012 will be the year New Jersey joins its neighboring state of New York in enacting marriage equality. New Jersey has had a civil unions law since 2005.

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