Same-Sex Marriage: Will New Jersey Do the Right Thing?

Joseph DiNorcia Jr

A vote on same-sex marriage in New Jersey may come as soon as tomorrow. The Catholic Bishops and conservative Democrats and Republicans are lobbying to defeat the measure. Will New Jersey do the right thing and vote for human rights?

On Thursday,
December 10th New Jersey’s State Senate has a chance to make a
statement to the rest of the country by passing same-sex marriage
legislation. Moving this piece of
legislation expeditiously is vital in getting the Assembly to vote on the measure
in time to send it to Governor Jon Corzine, who has said that he would sign the legislation, before he leaves office on January 19th. Corzine’s successor, Republican Chris Christie, has publicly stated that he would veto any legislation that approves gay marriage.

 

The quick
passage of this legislation is also important in stemming the recent gay
marriage setbacks in New York and Maine. 
While I do not believe that the recent events in these states accurately
reflect the feeling of the majority of people, they demonstrate the lengths to
which opponents have gone in blocking equal marriage rights.  And, these same opponents are in full
force in New Jersey. Over the past few weeks, groups like the National
Organization for Marriage have funneled money into the Garden State and conducted
a full frontal attack, including a robo-caller campaign, to get their message
out. The Catholic Church has also been
very engaged in the fight against marriage equality.  Patrick Brannigan, representing the Catholic Bishops of New
Jersey, has been active in getting the church’s message out to all of the
parishes, instructing their parishioners to contact their State Senators and
voice their objection to this legislation.  What makes the actions of the Catholic Church and other
faith-based organizations even more frustrating and perplexing is that there is
an amendment added to the New Jersey legislation that specifically allows clergy
to refuse to perform a gay marriage ceremony.

The marriage
equality legislation just barely came out of the New Jersey Senate Judiciary
Committee by a vote of 7–6. But, beware;
this was not a party line vote. Quite disturbingly the Judiciary Chair Paul Sarlo and Vice Chair John
Girgenti, both Democrats, voted no and have publicly said that they will vote
no when the legislation is brought up for a full vote. These two Democrats joined with four
Republicans to make up the six nay votes. 
But one Republican, Bill Baroni, voted in favor of the legislation, and
he should be commended for being strong enough to make the right vote and not
succumb to party pressure.

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While
Loretta Weinberg, the sponsor of the legislation was successful in getting this
out of the Judiciary Committee and to the floor for a full vote, the road ahead
is precarious.  Senate President
Dick Codey has promised to bring the legislation to the floor for a full vote
on Thursday and we must hold him to that. 
Still, it remains unclear what the vote looks like.  As we know from past votes on same-sex
marriage in other states, when it comes time for legislators to step up and do
the right thing, political pressure all too often intervenes and few elected
officials do so.

So, now is
the time for residents of New Jersey to step up by calling their Senators and
telling them to vote in favor of gay marriage, not only because their vote rests
on it, but also because it is the right thing to do.  Let’s all hope that New Jersey will join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts,
Vermont and New Hampshire as the states that had the courage to do what is
right and respect the rights of gay and lesbians to marry.

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