TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie on Friday afternoon vetoed a bill approved by the state legislature that would legalize same-sex marriage — just six hours after it reached his desk.
Christie had publicly promised swift action with a veto on the bill, and has said that he feels the issue should be settled in a state-wide ballot referendum by the voters.
“I have been just as adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples — as well as the strict enforcement of those rights and benefits,” Christie said in a prepared statement, and suggested that an ombudsman be appointed to address complaints that New Jersey’s same-sex civil union law be strengthened.
“Discrimination should not be tolerated and any complaint alleging a violation of a citizen’s right should be investigated and, if appropriate, remedied,” he said.
“Thousands and thousands of New Jersey families are denied financial security, health security and fundamental equal rights every day because of a failed civil union experiment,” said Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Bergen), in criticizing the governor’s veto.
“And yet in spite of their second-class citizenship, the governor single handedly — through the stroke of his pen — seeks to codify discrimination against them,” said Greenwald.
Christie continued push his suggestion of the gay marriage issue to a referendum in November to allow New Jersey voters to decide. Republicans fell in line with his recommendation; not a single Republican present in the Assembly on Thursday voted for the marriage equality bill, reported the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
Just two years after voting the bill down, the state Senate on Monday passed the measure 24-16, with two Republicans crossing the aisle.
Gay rights activists say they will now work to secure the necessary votes for an override by the Jan. 14, 2014, deadline — the end of this legislative session. They’ll need nearly a dozen more votes in the Assembly and a handful in the Senate.
Freedom to Marry, a marriage equality advocacy group, reacted by saying Christie has “planted his feet firmly on the wrong side of history.”
“Fortunately, his ‘no’ will not be America’s – or New Jersey’s – last word. It is simply an obstacle we overcome as we continue on the road to liberty and justice for all,” said Freedom to Marry founder and President Evan Wolfson, in a statement.
A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released on Tuesday shows that 54 percent of New Jersey voters support marriage equality for same-sex couples.