News (USA)

N.J. Democrats want quick high court decision on same-sex marriage ruling

TRENTON, N.J. — Democrats who control the New Jersey Legislature on Monday called for the state Supreme Court to fast-track a gay marriage decision so same-sex couples waiting to marry would know next month whether they can tie the knot here.

A judge ruled Friday that the state must allow gay couples to wed starting Oct. 21. But Gov. Chris Christie plans to appeal the ruling.

NJ marriage
Julio Cortez, AP
Alex Nikazmerad of North Plainfield, N.J., at a rally hosted by Garden State Equality in Montclair, N.J., hours after same-sex marriages were ruled legal by a state judge, Friday, Sept. 27, 2013.

On Monday, Democrats held a news conference at the Statehouse to urge Christie to drop the appeal – although the Republican governor who is a possible candidate for president in 2016 is unlikely to abandon the fight.

With Christie unlikely to budge, Democrats urged the Supreme Court to act quickly. The court hasn’t been petitioned yet, though everyone watching the case expects that the high court will be asked to decide on gay marriage eventually.

“We know it’s going there so there should be no delay,” Senate President Steve Sweeney said. “By Oct. 21st, peopl e should know, yes or no. ”

Legislators passed a law last year to allow gay marriage, but Christie vetoed it. At Monday’s news conference, Democrats light-heartedly discussed wedding plans with gay couples in the room, as Sweeney announced plans to post gay marriage for an override vote as soon after the Nov. 5 election. Sweeney said he could count on 27 of 40 senators to vote yes. In the Assembly, 54 of 80 votes would be needed.

That’s three additional votes in the Senate and 12 in the Assembly than when it passed last year.

Democrats control both houses of the Legislature but not by veto-proof majorities. They have never overridden one of Christie’s vetoes.

Republicans rarely support bills that Christie opposes. Still, several said Republican legislators would be allowed to vote how they wanted on the gay marriage override without pressure from the governor.

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Two Republicans in the Assembly who were absent for the last vote have indicated their support for the override so far. No Republicans offered comments after the most recent decision, though several Democrats released statements supporting the decision.

Democrats have until mid-January to hold the vote. They have never overridden a Christie veto.

Christie is on record supporting civil unions, which offer gay and lesbian couples benefits of marriage but not the title.

Christie also asked that gay marriage be decided by public vote, but most gay-rights advocates rejected that position, arguing that marriage equality is a civil right that doesn’t belong on the ballot.

Thirteen states allow same-sex marriage. New Jersey’s civil union law has been in effect since 2006.

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