New Jersey

Advocacy groups pitch lawmakers to override Christie’s marriage equality veto

Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.)

Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.)

TRENTON, N.J. — A new push by same-sex marriage advocates, led by New Jersey United for Marriage, an alliance of national and state LGBT and civil rights groups, are hoping to secure enough votes to override Gov. Chris Christie’s 2012 veto of a same-sex marriage bill before the current legislative term expires in January, 2014.

Their efforts to persuade Republicans and reluctant Democrats in both the Assembly and Senate is well organized, and according to political sources in New Jersey and in Washington, well funded.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.)

Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.)

But Christie has wielded near total control of the state Legislature, and leaders in both houses have been unable to gather the required “supermajority” needed to override his veto.

Political analysts note that Christie’s legendary short temper could damage any lawmaker’s career who crossed him on an attempt to override a veto. This, coupled with a likely Christie reelection in November, would mean that a vote to override would need to occur just prior to the governor being sworn in for his second term.

Christie has repeatedly said that any vote or measure on same-sex marriage should be left up to New Jersey’s voters and the conventional wisdom would say any successful override effort would most likely anger him.

But New Jersey United for Marriage and the other advocates are banking on changing enough minds in the legislature to make it happen though.

In an analysis Sunday, the New Jersey Star-Ledger notes that the marriage equality bill Christie vetoed passed in the Senate by a vote of 24-16, with two Republicans voting yes and two Democrats voting no. If those four votes remain unchanged, three additional yes votes will be needed to override the veto.

In the Assembly, the tally was 42-33, with no Republicans voting yes, two Democrats voting no, three Republicans and one Democrat not voting, and one Democratic seat temporarily vacant. A veto override will require 12 additional yes votes.

This week, two Democratic Assembly members who weren’t present for the original vote — Reps. Wayne DeAngelo and Gabriela Mosquera — said they intend to back the override effort. A spokeswoman for Mosquera, said her boss “supports same-sex marriage and will vote for the override.”

Even with those lawmakers who have now indicated a change in their viewpoints, advocates will still need to find nine more votes in the Assembly and three in the Senate before the session ends in January.

But the advocacy groups predict they will get the votes, because many lawmakers were on the fence before the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Freshman Republican Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi acknowledged to the Star-Ledger that for her, the deciding factor was the Supreme Court decision, which “ended any pretense that New Jersey’s law authorizing civil unions affords the equal rights and privileges to same-sex couples to which the New Jersey Supreme Court has said they’re entitled.”

“Assemblywoman Schepisi said it — the Supreme Court’s decision to throw out DOMA was a game-changer,” said a spokesperson for New Jersey United for Marriage. “It’s now clear that New Jersey’s civil union law doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. As legislators who respect the national and state constitutions, you should want to address that problem.”

In a written pitch to lawmakers, the advocacy groups said that whether Christie “wins big or wins small, the day he takes the oath of office he’ll be a lame duck. The pressure on you to do things his way will ease.”

“We can show you evidence that only a tiny number of legislators nationwide who voted for gay marriage paid any price for it at election time,” the pitch states.

“It’s going to be part of your legacy, one way or another. If it happens because of the courts, and not because of your vote, it will be a part of history that you can’t change.”

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