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N.J. lawmakers end legislative push for same-sex marriage law

Monday, December 16, 2013

TRENTON, N.J. — With same-sex marriage already legal in New Jersey, state lawmakers have stopped their push to codify the details through a bill, saying it is not urgent to address whether religious-affiliated organizations should be exempt.

A bill was to be discussed Monday before the state Senate Judiciary Committee, but state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, one of its prime sponsors, withdrew it over the weekend.

Rich Schultz, AP
Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey exchange vows as Mayor David DelVecchio officiates in the first same-sex marriage in Lambertville, N.J. history at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Oct. 21, 2013 in Lambertville, N.J. Asaro and Schailey hold the distinction of being the first couple to enter into a civil union in the state, when that law took effect in 2007.

“We’re not in any kind of, quote, ‘crisis,’” she said Monday. “We have a court decision that guarantees the right of marriage to gay couples in New Jersey.”

The legal and political fight over same-sex marriage has lasted more than a decade in New Jersey.

In October, the main issue was settled abruptly when the state Supreme Court refused to grant a stay that would have delayed implementation of a lower-court ruling that the state must recognize gay marriages. Three days later, weddings began. And Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, dropped his legal figh t against gay marriage.

For Christie, it was not a change of direction so much as a concession.

With the marriages allowed, gay rights groups halted what had been a major push to override Christie’s 2012 veto of a bill that to allow gay nuptials.

That bill included a provision that would have exempted not only unwilling clergy from performing ceremonies but would have allowed religious-affiliated groups – the Knights of Columbus, for instance, or the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting – not to allow ceremonies on their property.

For groups like the New Jersey Family Policy Council, those exemptions about where ceremonies could be banned did not go far enough.

“They should cover all organizations that are connected, whether they be hospitals or orphanages or any other organization, and people of conscience,” said the organization’s executive director, Len Deo. The latter group, he said, includes caterers, wedding planners and others whom he wanted to be ab le to deny providing services for same-sex weddings.

But for the groups that pushed for gay rights, the exemptions reaching beyond clergy – who are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution from performing weddings they oppose – were always seen as a compromise meant to sway on-the-fence lawmakers.

Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal, among others oppose the exemptions now. “If we caveat those rights in any way,” said Troy Stevenson, the executive director of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, “we’re saying, ‘You’re still not equal.’”

Stevenson said legislation is still needed to address whether civil unions will be converted to marriages.

In the most recent incarnation of a bill to codify details of same-sex nuptials, Weinberg wanted to let religiously affiliated groups opt out of hosting gay weddings only if they restrict use of their facilities to their own members.

Jim White, the chairman of the religious and civi l rights committee for the Knights of Columbus, said keeping same-sex ceremonies out of the group’s halls is a low priority. White said the much bigger threat is the existence of gay marriage in the first place.

“We can’t abide by this,” White said. “Where that takes us, we don’t know.”

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17 more reader comments:

  1. Nice! Just that in Neanderthal and deeply fascist Wisconsin, there is this constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and also against civil unions!!! No one is challenging it! So we sit, almost totally surrounded by same-sex marriage states…Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota! Wisconsin, laughing stock of the Midwest!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:39pm
  2. Ohio also has a constitutional ban, :(.

    Replied on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:53pm
  3. Our two states seem to be in love with fascist Republican extremists. Our Lt. Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, has stated publicly that she equates gay marriage to marrying a table! What did the people of Wisconsin say to that? They re-elected her in the 2012 recall election! I, dear one, am planning to move out of this horrid state of Wisconsin, my birth state! I've lived all over the country and I'm now planning on the city of Chicago as my final domicile! Illinois of course has same-sex marriage, starting in June. Some folks say there will be a brain drain as young folks leave to seek states that are into the 21st century and human rights, not some Neanderthal state like Wisconsin that loves being assbackwards!

    Replied on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:14pm
  4. Please don't leave out the SH***Y state of Nebraska.

    Replied on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:45pm
  5. I think the reason nobody is challenging the WI ban is because they're terrified of reprisals from local law enforcement, judges, neighbors, and anybody else who comes along and believes marriage is only as old as Christianity and involves one man and one woman.

    Replied on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:46pm
  6. Yeah well, people in 19 other states are challenging their state bans in federal court, so why should Wisconsin be such a special case then?

    Replied on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:47pm
  7. Besides, nobody's gonna terrify me, no siree! Hell hath no fury like a dyke scorned! I speak truth to power with my middle finger touching their fascist noses!

    Replied on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:49pm
  8. No more cowering, scared shitless, in the mfuckin' closets! That got us nowhere!

    Replied on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:51pm
  9. Don't forget Indiana with GOPers trying to pass legislation against same sex marriage. They can't run people put of this state fast enough.

    Replied on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:48pm
  10. Maybe those of us in WI, MI, and IN will be moving to Chicagoland! I am in the planning process right now! Here I come, city of Chicago! <3

    Replied on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 7:49pm
  11. Good

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:01pm
  12. ^this guy

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:11pm
  13. Who wants to live in New Jersey anyway

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:28pm
  14. I don’t agree with this for the simple fact people use religious freedom to try and get away with almost anything

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:37pm
  15. I think that they should legalize gay marriages in every state and by the way gay people should’ve had that right a long time ago too get married.they have every right too get married and too be happy and proud and I will continue too support them no matter what

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:43pm
  16. Samuel Coudry-Lemay

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 8:10pm
  17. Divest from these states and you’ll see how fast they turn their act around. No state can afford to be divested 30% of its income.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 8:15pm