New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) said on Friday that the state legislature will pass a bill to legalize same sex marriage in the state. The NJ State Senate will be voting on the bil on Monday and, as Sweeney said on the Brian Lehrer Show, he expects the measure to pass “absolutely.” Sweeney said he expects that a similar bill will pass the State Assembly on Thursday, too.
Governor Chris Christie has made it abundantly clear that he will veto a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, which he is “no fan” of. At the end of January, Christie had called for a referendum on same-sex marriage, saying that “we’re discussing huge change, and I believe we need to approach this not only in a thoughtful way, not in a rushed way, but also in a way where we’re able to get the most input that we can from the public.” Last week, state Sen. Christopher Bateman (R) proposed an amendment to “let the people of New Jersey decide.”
A number of civil rights advocates and politicians have pointed out that calling for a referendum on same sex marriage is tantamount to asking the public to vote on civil rights. Christie at first pshawed such, saying that “people would have been happy” to vote on civil rights. But after even Newark mayor Cory Booker (D), who has generally refrained from criticizing Christie, blasted the governor for his misinformed statement about civil rights, Christie apologized for his remarks.
As Sweeney said to Brian Lehrer on Friday,
“You don’t put civil rights on the ballot. When you put it on the ballot, the majority will always deny the minority.”
Recent polls show that more and more New Jerseyans support gay marriage. Assuming that Christie vetoes the bill, a two-thirds majority vote in both the state Senate and Assembly will be needed. This week, supporters of same sex marriage are planning to wear blue and fill the galleries of both houses of the NJ legislature in Trenton, while opponents are planning to wear red and rally outside the statehouse.
When a similar bill was introduced into the NJ State Senate in 2010, Sweeney abstained from voting. He now says that his opposition to the bill was “wrong” and a “political calculation.” As he said on Friday to Brian Lehrer:
“If the governor vetoes the bill, we’re gonna fight to override the governor. I have two years to do it almost, so that gives us plenty of time to work on people.”
NJ.com quotes Kenneth Sherrill, a political science professor at Hunter College in New York who has studied gay marriage referendums and notes that politicians are probably thinking of the drive to legalize same sex marriage in New Jersey as a “campaign issue”:
“It’s a popular issue and it puts the governor in a bad light — perhaps one of the few issues that can be used to make him look bad with the independents and with educated voters.”
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