NJ lawmaker: Voting against marriage equality ‘biggest mistake of my career’

Steve Sweene

Steve Sweene

Steve Sweeney

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) on Monday apologized in a speech on the Senate floor for casting a vote against marriage equality in January 2010.

“Seventeen months ago, I stood up here and made the biggest mistake of my legislative career,” Sweeney said. “I made a decision based purely on political calculations not to vote in support of marriage equality. I failed in my responsibility as leader of this house of government to actually lead. I was wrong.”

The vote came in the last days of the term of Governor Jon Corzine, who had promised to sign the bill if it passed. Unfortunately, thanks in part to Sweeney’s vote, it did not.

A marriage equality bill was introduced in the New Jersey legislature last week and, according to Garden State Equality Chair Steven Goldstein, there are now enough votes in the New Jersey state legislature for marriage equality to pass. However, with Corzine no longer governor, things are more complicated.

New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie recently said that he would support civil unions for gay couples, but that he could not see himself supporting marriage equality because he believes that “marriage is an institution between one man and one woman.”

Since Christie would be unlikely to sign a marriage equality bill, and since there are not enough votes in the New Jersey legislature to override a Christie veto, Goldstein concludes that marriage equality advocates in New Jersey will have to pursue other venues for now.

While it’s frustrating to think that “political calculations” may be the only reason that marriage equality is not legal in states like New Jersey, we must accept apologies from politicians like Sweeney if we hope to push forward; he certainly isn’t the only one who has stood against equality at the whim of political calculation.

It’s quite likely, after all, that the reason President Obama has yet to endorse marriage equality boils down to political calculations, too.

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