New Jersey Senate Committee Advances Marriage Equality

New Jersey’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance same-sex marriage legislation in an 8 to 4 vote this afternoon, after hearing some three hours of testimony from opponents and supporters of marriage equality. To become law, the measure must also pass the full Senate, the Assembly, “and get by the governor,” who earlier today pledged to veto the bill and called on residents to vote on whether gays and lesbians should marry. During the hearing, Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D) directly addressed Christie’s comments. “The last time to my knowledge we put a civil right issue on referendum in the state of New Jersey was in 1915 and it was woman’s suffrage issue and the vote went down,” she said. “Women were not allowed to vote. This is our responsibility in this legislature.” The Republicans who voted against the measure all used Christie’s threat of a veto for cover, claiming that same-sex marriage would never pass under the current governor.

A recent Quinnipiac poll found that a majority of New Jersey voters — 52 percent — support marriage equality while only 42 percent oppose it. Likewise, 65 percent believe same-sex marriage is not a threat to traditional marriage, 53 percent agree that denying same-sex marriage is a form of discrimination, and 66 percent adoption rights for same-sex couples.

The state has a long history of battling for LGBT equality. In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in Lewis v. Harris that “every statutory right and benefit conferred to heterosexual couples through civil marriage must be made available to committed same-sex couples.” The New Jersey legislature responded to the decision by legalizing civil unions, but a 2008 review commission found that “the separate categorization established by the Civil Union Act invites and encourages unequal treatment of same-sex couples and their children.” A marriage equality group is suing the state to establish same-sex marriage and is moving forward with the lawsuit despite the legislative effort.