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N.J. advocates plan for vote to override Christie’s same-sex marriage veto

Monday, September 23, 2013
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TRENTON, N.J. — For same-sex couples waiting to marry in New Jersey, the Legislature’s most important vote will come after the November election.

The lame-duck session is when Democratic leaders have promised to try to override Gov. Chris Christie’s marriage equality veto.

New Jersey marriage

Mel Evans, AP
Marriage equality supporters gather at a launch rally in July for New Jersey United for Marriage.

National advocacy groups like the American Unity Fund that have had success in states like Minnesota, where the legislature approved same-sex marriage this year, are already working to convince targeted legislators to vote yes.

A state campaign entitled New Jersey United for Marriage is now active, for the purpose of winning marriage equality before the legislative session ends in January, said the group’s spokesman Chris Donnelly.

Conservative groups such as the National Organization for Marriage are honing their own appeal to keep New Jersey from joining 13 other states where gay and lesbian couples are allowed to wed.

The veto override requires 27 votes in the Senate and 54 in the Assembly. That’s three additional votes in the Senate and 12 in the Assembly than when it passed last year.

Republican leaders say legislators in their party will be free to vote how they want, without pressure from the governor.

Two Republicans in the Assembly who did not vote on the bill last year, Declan O’Scanlon of Red Bank and Holly Schepisi of Westwood, say they will vote to override Christie’s veto. Schepisi said she was swayed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.

“The narrative that the governor strong-arms Republicans in the Legislature is false,” O’Scanlon said after making his choice known last week. “I think you’ll see some other folks vote for it, but I don’t know exactly how many at this point. We’re some time away from that vote actually happening.”

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Christie, a Catholic and potential contender for the 2016 presidential nomination, opposes same-sex marriage. But he supports the state’s civil union law, which gives gay and lesbian couples the benefits of marriage without the title.

He called for the question to be put to voters in a ballot referendum, but most Democrats rejected the idea. In their view, a civil rights issue such as gay marriage does not belong on the ballot.

Several same-sex couples are pursuing a parallel track in court.

Lawyers for gay couples and New Jersey’s government laid out their cases to a judge in August on whether she should order the state to legalize same-sex marriage in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the matter.

Six couples and several of their children sued in 2011, saying civil unions fall short of marriage. That case is months from going to trial.

In June, the couples asked the court to make a judgment after the Supreme Court ruling invalidated key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, which had banned the federal government from recognizing gay marriage.

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