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NJ lawmakers debate gay marriage in committee hearing

NJ lawmakers debate gay marriage in committee hearing

TRENTON — New Jersey lawmakers prodded each other over issues of legal equality and religious freedom as the debate over same-sex marriage neared the three-hour mark today in the Senate Judiciary Committee, reports the NJ Star-Ledger.

NJ-gay-marriage-debateIn a tearful introduction, Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) said her relationship with her late husband Irwin Weinberg, inspired her to sponsor the legislation.

“Losing him was the hardest adversity I’ve ever faced,” said Weinberg. “But what we’re voting on today is the right of every citizen to have what Irwin and I had: the right to live with the person you love in full peace and security.”

Sen. Weinberg
Sen. Weinberg
Weinberg, a primary proponent of same-sex marriage, said lawmakers should not take religious texts into account when casting their vote.

“We are a country governed by laws that ensure equality and fairness for every individual,” she said.

Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), the committee’s chairman, predicted six hours of debate and testimony. Committee members are expected to pass the bill, sending it to the Senate floor for a vote as early as Thursday.

Sarlo said time constraints will prevent all 150 people who signed up to testify from appearing before the committee.

In 2006, the state Supreme Court ruled that committed same-sex couples deserve the same rights and obligations as married heterosexual spouses. Lawmakers legalized civil unions later that year, and gay rights organizations continued their push for same-sex marriage.

If passed, New Jersey would be the sixth state to allow gay marriage, following Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Residents in thirty-one states, most recently Maine, have rejected same-sex marriage in referendum votes.

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