Friday, February 17, 2012

NJ Assembly Passes Marriage Equality Bill 42-33!

The New Jersey State Assembly passed a marriage equality bill by a vote of 42-33, becoming the seventh state legislature in history to pass a marriage equality bill. (The bill passed the State Senate 24-16.) Previously, state legislatures in California (2005 and 2007), Vermont (2009), Connecticut (2009), Maine (2009), New Hampshire (2009), New York (2011) and Washington (2012) had passed marriage equality bills through both houses. Of these states which enacted marriage equality legislatively, only Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York currently have marriage equality currently legal in their state. It should also be noted that the District of Columbia enacted marriage equality through its legislature in December 2009. California has an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples which are legally married but no more can get married until the Perry v Brown federal lawsuit is finally resolved. Massachusetts and Iowa also allow marriage equality, thanks to rulings by their respective state supreme courts.

In New Jersey, marriage equality will not go into effect because Republican Governor Chris Christie has announced his attention to veto the bill.

Garden State Equality sent out a press release on this historic achievement:
Since Stonewall, we have been on a 40-year journey toward our freedom.  Today, the legislature has brought us to the edge of the promised land.  We know the Governor won’t let us enter, but we finally behold the view of our dreams and we will never turn back.
Today’s milestone came in the face of some of the toughest obstacles in the history of the marriage equality movement.  Instead of a Governor twisting arms on our behalf, we have a Governor who twisted arms against us right up until the final votes in each chamber.    And Garden State Equality’s budget was one-tenth of what it was two years ago.
But we had the people and the passion – and the greatest leaders in Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green, Democratic Party Chair Assemblyman John Wisniewski, and the peerless pioneer in the New Jersey legislature, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora.   We thank the unsung heroes of the legislative process – the legislative staff, especially the Assembly Majority and Senate Majority staff.
We are exuberant advocates but also methodical strategists.  To win an override, we will take the time we need, assisted by a changing world.  Look how the world changed since the last vote two years ago.   We have until the end of the legislative session, January 2014.  The key is winning.
We could not have achieved this milestone without our partner organizations.  Freedom to Marry was the national linchpin that never stopped believing in Garden State Equality, not even after our profound disappointment two years ago, and made this milestone possible.
The Human Rights Campaign lent us a spectacular field director and was invaluable and gracious at every juncture.  The ACLU, The Task Force and Marriage Equality NY/USA gave us additional power.   Our sisters and brothers in labor, especially the Communications Workers of America, have been relentless fighters by our side.   Our state’s progressive blog, Blue Jersey, has been an unsurpassed voice for justice.
And once again, we thank our spectacular lobbying firm, the Kaufman Zita Group, including Jeannine LaRue, Tom Wilson, Adam Kaufman and Trish Zita.  They are second to none.
Pursuing all roads to justice, Garden State Equality and seven-same sex couples will continue our lawsuit for marriage equality, where we are represented by Lambda Legal and the nationally renowned Gibbons law firm.  With this victory, the courts will see the legislature’s clear intent to replace the state’s failed civil union law with marriage equality.
Congratulations to the Garden State!

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