New Jersey Senate Votes Down Marriage Equality Bill

In a 20-14 vote today, the New Jersey Senate rejected a bill  that would have extended marriage protections to  gay and lesbian couples.

The New Jersey Real-Time News wrote:

The 20-14 vote defeating the measure followed hours of public debate inside the packed Senate chamber, and loud, often-contentious rallies on the Statehouse steps, with hundreds of supporters and opponents of the measure making their voices heard.

Statewide polls have shown New Jersey residents closely divided on same-sex marriage, and leading up to today’s vote, indicators showed a majority of the senators opposing the measure.

But momentum for the bill grew after Gov. Jon Corzine lost the November election. He has promised to sign the measure before Gov.-elect Chris Christie takes office. Christie has said he opposes the bill.

The Edge provided some more details:                              

Applause broke out inside the Senate chamber once the vote took place, but a number of proponents made impassioned and even emotional speeches in support of the measure. Sponsor Loretta Weinberg [D-Teaneck] evoked her late-husband of nearly 40 years as she urged her fellow lawmakers to support the bill.

"Men and women don’t have a monopoly on loving relationships," she said.


State Sen. Brian Baroni [R-Hamilton] maintained the Garden State’s civil unions law continues to relegate gays and lesbians to second class status.

"Separate but equal was wrong in 1954, it is wrong today," Baroni said. "Separate but equal can certainly be separate, but it can never be equal; and unequal treatment by government is always, always wrong."

Reuters reports that Chris Christie’s public opposition to the bill coupled with lawmakers not wanting to go against him may have played a factor:

Incoming Republican Governor Chris Christie, who defeated Corzine in November, had said he would veto the measure. With failure of the bill in the Senate, the proposal now could lie dormant for years while Christie is in office.

Political observers have said Christie's victory made some lawmakers wary of supporting the controversial measure.

Numerous statements have been released from LGBT advocates and allies expressing their disappointment with today’s vote.

GLAAD:

“Only with marriage can gay and lesbian families fully take care of each other and today’s vote is a painful loss for couples in New Jersey as well as across the country. The march towards equality is far from over. The Supreme Court of New Jersey unanimously ruled in 2006 that the New Jersey Constitution demands that same-sex couples must be treated equally and GLAAD joins Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal to continue working for equality in New Jersey.”

“We urge gay and lesbian New Jersey couples and allies to share their stories with their neighbors, friends, co-workers and local media to show legislators that the public supports fairness for all couples.”

“We also encourage media outlets to share stories of the New Jersey couples who are left vulnerable after today’s vote.”

Garden State Equality:

With today’s vote in the state Senate, the New Jersey legislature defaulted on its constitutional obligation to provide same-sex couples in New Jersey equal protection, as unanimously mandated by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2006.  That’s why we at Garden State Equality are here with our partner Lambda Legal, which has an extraordinary track record of advancing LGBT civil rights in the courts....

Members and friends, today was not an outcome lost, but rather a juncture in an otherwise glorious road to justice.   Since Garden State Equality’s founding in 2004, New Jersey has enacted 210 LGBT civil rights laws at the state, county and local levels, a national record.  We have 64,000 members – LGBT and straight alike – who have improved the lives of millions.   A watchdog organization, eQualityGiving.com, just ranked New Jersey #1 in America for LGBT rights, tied with three other states, and we haven’t even won marriage equality yet.

Gov. Corzine:

“Most assuredly, this is an issue of civil rights and civil liberties, the foundation of our state and federal constitutions.  Denying any group of people a fundamental human right because of who they are, or whom they love, is wrong, plain and simple.”

“As was the case when Americans faced legal discrimination on the basis of their race or gender, history will frown on the denial of the basic right of marriage equality.  I regret that the state’s recognition of equal justice and equal treatment under the law will be delayed.  Certainly this process and the resulting debate is historic, but unfortunately, today's vote was squarely on the wrong side of history.”

“We also encourage media outlets to share stories of the New Jersey couples who are left vulnerable after today’s vote.”

Lambda Legal released a statement stating that they are going to back to court to seek marriage equality, despite today’s loss:

“The requirement to ensure equality for same-sex couples, established by the New Jersey Supreme Court in its decision in our marriage lawsuit in 2006, has not been met," said Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director at Lambda Legal.  "There is enormous, heartbreaking evidence that civil unions are not equal to marriage, and we will be going back to the courts in New Jersey to fight for equality. Too many families are at risk.  We cannot wait any longer."

GLAAD will continue to monitor this story and provide updates.