TRENTON, N.J. — The Democratic leadership of the New Jersey legislature on Monday said they will introduce marriage equality legislation this session and would make the measure in both legislative bodies Senate and Assembly the legislative top priority.
The announcement indicates a likely confrontation with the state’s Republican Governor Chris Christie, who has indicated that he will veto any such measure.
The bill, known as the “Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act,” will be introduced with the symbolic designation of S-1 to indicate its status as the first order of business. Senate president Steve Sweeney, Senator Raymond Lesniak, and Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, will serve as prime sponsors.
“This is about doing what’s right and ensuring full equal and civil rights for all New Jerseyans,” said Sweeney. “Two years ago, I made a mistake in abstaining on marriage equality — a mistake that means same-sex couples continue to be denied the very basic civil right to live their lives as they wish. But today isn’t about me correcting my mistake, it’s about correcting a mistake for thousands of loving couples across the state who want nothing more than to be treated equally as their neighbors.”
Leaders also plan to fast-track the measure in the Assembly, where the bill will be known as A-1. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver pledged to move the bill in a statement saying:
“This is the same wrong message we heard from segregation laws,” she said. “Separate treatment was wrong then. And separate treatment is wrong now. That’s why I am committed this session to posting marriage equality legislation and making its passage a priority as soon as possible.”
Should this measure pass both houses, the leadership acknowledged that it is unclear whether the legislature would be able to muster the two-thirds majority required to override the Governor’s veto.
Senator Sweeney told reporters; “If the governor cannot raise himself by signing a law to ensure a basic civil right for all residents, we would hope that he would not lower himself by vetoing it,” said Sweeney.
Reed Gusciora, the first openly gay member of the New jersey’s legislature, addressed the political implications for the Governor:
“In recent months, Governor Christie has been to four out of the six states that recognize same-sex marriages: Iowa, New Hampshire, New York and Massachusetts,” said Gusciora. “Moreover, when he visits Washington DC he is in a city that also recognizes such relationships. And in none of these places, has he seen any diminishment of the institution of marriage other than perhaps when he is in the presence of Newt Gingrich.”
New Jersey could become the seventh state in the United States to enact same-sex marriage equality, New York. Last week Washington’s Governor Chris Gregoire,(D) signaled her intention to prioritize same-sex marriage equality in her state’s legislation session this year, and Maryland‘s Governor Martin O’Malley has said he will push for a similar same-sex marriage bill as that state begins its session.