New Jersey Senate to Vote on Marriage Equality

New Jersey Senate President Richard Codey announced that the New Jersey Senate will finally vote on a bill that would allow gay and lesbian couples to be legally married. The vote is scheduled to take place on Thursday, January 7.

The Star-Leger (NJ) reported:

After a month in legislative limbo, a controversial bill to allow gay marriage in New Jersey will get a vote in the full state Senate tomorrow, Senate President Richard Codey said yesterday.

The decision sets up another dramatic day in Trenton as supporters concede they won't know if the measure will pass until the votes are tallied. Senators will make a decision a month after Codey called off a vote when sponsors worried there wasn't enough support -- and a week after Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts said his house won't vote on gay marriage until it passes the Senate.

"Given the intensely personal nature of this issue, I think the people of this state deserve the right to a formal debate on the Senate floor," Codey said.

With many legislators refusing to say where they stand, Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), a sponsor, said the vote forces them to "stand up and be counted on how they feel about equal rights."

"They can't be hesitant anymore," Weinberg said. "They have to come to the realization that we were elected to take sometimes difficult stands, but we were not elected to only worry about the next election."

Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen), an opponent of the bill, said there isn't enough support in either house to pass the measure but declined to say it would fail in the Senate.

The Philadelphia Inquirer stresses that even if the bill passes on Thursday, it has more steps to take before it becomes law. Time is of the essence, especially given that Gov.-elect Christopher J. Christie does not support marriage for gay and lesbian couples:

If the Senate approves it, I will take the extraordinary step of bringing the bill directly to the Assembly floor for a vote during our Monday voting session," Roberts said. If same-sex marriage is not approved by that date, it faces an even more difficult battle because Gov.-elect Christopher J. Christie has said he would veto it.

Advocates for the measure yesterday welcomed the news and hoped to whip up support with a rally at the Statehouse tomorrow.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D., Bergen), a sponsor of the bill, said she remained hopeful it would pass.

"We're looking forward to having everyone stand up and be counted to make sure all the residents of the state of New Jersey have equal rights," she said.

Garden State Equality’s Steven Goldstein told New York’s NBC affiliate that he is happy that this bill is finally being voted on and praised Codey for his work around this issue.

"Senator Codey is a great supporter of equality and at least he kept his commitment to our community," Goldstein said, referring to the defections of several senators who Goldstein said had promised to support gay marriage, but then changed their minds after the November election.

GLAAD will continue to monitor this story and provide updates.