New Jersey Vote on Same-Sex Marriage Postponed, But Time is Running Out

Joseph DiNorcia Jr

Is the decision to table the vote on same-sex marriage in New Jersey a strategic move or tactical mistake?

A few
days ago, I sat down and wrote a piece on how we all needed to keep the
pressure on the New Jersey Senate so that it would pass same-sex marriage
legislation and make a statement to the rest of the country—a statement that
New Jersey had the courage to do what is right and respect the rights of gays
and lesbians to marry.  That is the
thought I had on my mind as I went to sleep that night.  But then a funny thing happened.  I woke up to find out that there wasn’t
going to be a vote.  What? 
No vote?

We knew
going in that a vote in the Senate was going to be close.  With 21 votes needed to pass the legislation,
and only one Republican, Bill Baroni, voting in favor, Democrats were going to
need to hold on to at least 20 (of their 23) votes to make this happen
(assuming there is no more hidden Republican support).  And two Democrats, Judiciary Chair Paul
Sarlo and Vice Chair John Girgenti, both voted against the bill in Committee
and are likely do so on the floor as well.  So with the vote close at best, it was tabled.  The official reason: a claim that it
was the Assembly’s place to act first and the Senate would wait on its
colleagues. A little late in the game for this to come up, don’t you think?

Postponing a
vote that you know (or strongly suspect) you are going to lose is not a bad
political tactic.  It can give you
time to regroup, continue negotiating with those who may still be on the fence,
and shore up additional public support. But the thing is, what we don’t have in
New Jersey is time. Chris Christie
takes the Governor’s chair on January 19th and he has promised to veto this legislation and any other that grants same-sex marriage rights.

And now,
with the process re-starting in the Assembly the bill will have to move out of
the Judiciary Committee, go to that floor for debate, and be passed before the
Senate has to step up and take a vote. 
Though the rumblings from Trenton suggest that the bill will have an
easier road in the Assembly, the real question is whether it will have a fast
one.  According to the current
calendar, the Assembly will recess for the holidays at the close of business on
Monday, December 14th. 
In fact, even after next Monday, it will only come back into session for
a couple of days between now and January 19th, those being January 7th
and January 11th. 

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essentially, by postponing today’s vote, the Senate has given this bill a grand
total of four business days to get passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee, the
full Assembly, and then back to the Senate for a full floor vote.  Far from seeming like a good political
strategy, today’s postponement seems like strategic wimping out to me.  Now, if and when this bill fails to
become law, it will not be (or at least appear not to be) on the heads of the
Democratic Senators who have been pushing it.  It was timing. It was the Assembly. It was the new
Republican Governor. 

Granted even
if they had held the vote, and even if the Democrats had managed to get to 21
votes, the Assembly would have had to make short order of this legislation in
order for it to become law on Governor Corzine’s watch. We will never know
whether this would have happened, but at the very least if they had held the
vote as scheduled, we would have had the opportunity to see state senators
stand up for what is right and what is just.  Instead they just did what was easy.  So very disappointing.

Still, I
stand by what I said in my last blog. 
Even though this schedule appears as if it were set to kill all of our
hopes, now is the time when voters in New Jersey need to pick up their phones
and start calling their representatives in both houses.  Regardless of the political shenanigans
of the day, we cannot stop putting pressure on until same-sex marriage becomes

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