Hope Endures for NJ Marriage Equality
Hopes that outgoing New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine might yet have the opportunity to sign a bill granting marriage equality in the Garden State are fading as the state’s politicians, once public supporters of gay and lesbian family rights, back away from marriage equality.
The Associated Press reported in a Dec. 10 article that NJ state Senate President Richard Codey had acceded to a request from the sponsors of a marriage equality bill to push back a vote on the measure that had originally been slated for that same day. The rationale given at the time by sponsor Ray Lesniak was that he and co-sponsor Loretta Weinberg wanted the state Assembly to take up marriage equality at the same time.
That delay was followed by the failure of the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee failing to take the measure up for consideration when it met on Jan. 4, according to a Jan. 5 article in the New York Times. Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts passed the buck back to the state Senate, saying that an Assembly vote on marriage equality would only happen after a successful Senate vote.
With the clock counting down to the Jan. 19 exit of equality-friendly Corzine--due to be succeeded by anti-equality Gov.-elect Chris Christie, who has already vowed to kill any measure granting legal marriage parity to gay families that might reach his desk--state Senate President Richard Codey confirmed on Jan. 5 that a vote would take place, even though the votes to get the measure approved do not seem to be in place, reported NBC New York.com that same day.
The measure is now scheduled for debate and a Senate vote on Jan. 7. "Senator Codey is a great supporter of equality and at least he kept his commitment to our community," Garden State Equality chair Steve Goldstein told NBC News.
Goldstein was referencing the evaporation of support for the measure form state lawmakers. Prior to Corzine’s defeat in November’s elections, New Jersey officials seemed keen to extend family equality to New Jersey’s gay and lesbians. Now that they have sensed a change in the political winds, their own political will seems to have shifted as well. Marriage equality advocates have sought to strengthen the resolve of politicians who are now backing away from them, organizing a State House rally attended by 150 backers of the measure, and warning that abandonment now will be punished at the ballot box later this year. Goldstein put the matter succinctly, telling the New York Times, "Either we will be able to march up the aisle and have marriage equality, or we will march across the aisle and have political independence."
Now that a vote is on the Senate schedule, hope--however faint--still glimmers. Lesniak sounded a positive note on Jan. 4, saying, "I believe there is a realistic chance we can get it posted and passed."
Various reasons have been given for lawmakers’ sudden backpedaling, from the state of the economy to fears that a vote on the rights of gay and lesbian families could prove detrimental in next November’s elections. Len Deo of the anti-gay Family Policy Council chalked it up to Corzine having run as "’the marriage equality’ candidate," only to be soundly defeated by the anti-gay Christie, a Jan. 5 MSNBC.com article reported.