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Gay Marriage Fight Comes to New Jersey – Senate Vote on Thursday – UPDATE: Vote Postponed

Gay Marriage Fight Comes to New Jersey – Senate Vote on Thursday – UPDATE: Vote Postponed

Legislators in New Jersey have cleared the way for a gay marriage vote in the Senate as soon as Thursday, December 10, following a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that passed the bill by a vote of 7-6 on Monday.

Following the defeat of a gay marriage bill in New York last week, this debate is likely to draw much attention from gay marriage advocates and opposition alike, as both sides wait to see whether New Jersey can become the next state to legalize gay marriage.

States that currently have legalized gay marriages are Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Iowa, with New Hampshire’s gay marriage law to come into effect on January 1, 2010. This, of course, is not counting California, where gay marriages were briefly legal in 2008.

New Jersey legislators are on a deadline, though. While current New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine (D), who signed a civil partnership law in 2006, has said he would also sign the gay marraige bill into law if it reached his desk, he leaves office in January. Republican Governor-elect Chris Christie, who takes up office on Jan. 19, has said he will veto the bill. So, the race is on.

The bill will require 21 votes from the New Jersey Senate to be advanced. The Senate is controlled by the Democrats by a majority of 23-17, but, as the stinging defeat in New York showed, a Democrat majority does not guarantee success.

It is thought that anywhere between two and seven Democrats may vote against the bill. There’s a slim hope of aid from the other side of the floor with Republican Senator Bill Baroni (R-Mercer) having voted to pass the legislation from committee on Monday night. As is evident, the odds of success do not stack up well.

However, senators will not be made to vote down party lines. This allowance has become customary with gay marriage votes which are seen as “matters of conscience”. For this reason, it could be that support may be drawn for the bill from other Republican senators, but this is, perhaps, an optimistic view.

The New Jersey General Assembly has a greater Democrat majority, and it is predicted that a comfortable margin would vote to approve gay marriage should the bill advance, though again, nothing is certain.

It should also be noted that the gay marriage bill did not pass unamended from the Judiciary Committee. Although the bill already contained exemptions for religious institutions to support their right to deny a gay couple a marriage ceremony, this exemption was made more clear by an amendement proposed by Sen. Bill Baroni.

Much work continues to be done behind the scenes as legislators who support gay marriage, as well as Gov. Corzine himself, try to rally support for the bill from Democrats who are as yet undecided. Although I’m not sure how much political weight this carries, Bruce Springsteen, a native of New Jersey, has also expressed his support of the bill.  

The major sticking point for opponents seems to be that the New Jersey civil union law grants all the rights that a state can provide a gay couple, except, that is, for the term “marriage” itself.

Other than the “separate but (not) equal” argument, the other key reason to signing this bill goes that, once the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed, the way will be cleared for married gay couples in New Jersey – and any state that allows gay marriage – to claim the full federal benefits that are currently only afforded to heterosexual marriages, because New Jersey’s definition of what it means to have a “spouse” and to be “married” will already include gay couples who have obtained a marriage license.

Currently, the Defense of Marriage Act means that gay couples who are married in their individual states are denied 1138 federal benefits because the federal government does not recognize their unions. President Obama has said that he supports a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

If the bill clears the New Jersey Senate on Thursday it will be debated in the General Assembly early next year.
 
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UPDATE 1: Senators supporting gay marriage in New Jersey have chosen to postpone the vote. The Senate vote is now likely to be held on January 7, or possibly January 11. This is so that the New Jersey General Assembly can take up the legislation, and possibly so that more support can be won before the Senate vote. I’ll bring you the General Assembly vote schedule when it comes in. 

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Hryk.

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14 comments

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7:47PM PST on Dec 31, 2009

agreed

3:55AM PST on Dec 25, 2009

Marry in a religious site? this is hilarious!
Don't know why when people talk about marriage they talk about church ceremonies, white dresses blah blah blah
If I get married one day (even though it's unnecessary because I live with my boyfriend) I won't set a foot in a church. What for? Do people need the consent of GOD to be happy?? If so gay couples are f*cked. The bible is anti-gay! People need to evolve, learn to respect everyones differences! Why do a person sign a paper against gay marriage is it has nothing to do with this person? What harm doest it do? They want to marry? Go ahead, I agree completely. Everyone should have the right to chose what to do with his own life. Why do people who have nothing to do with us have to be always meddling in our lives?? This is stupidity. It's what happens when they have nothing better to do!
Continue the good work. This matter is still a problem here in Portugal :( Figures! The average I.Q. is below 50% lololololol
take care

9:13AM PST on Dec 14, 2009

"I believe the country shouldn't be involved in marriage which is a religious institution."

Marriage was never a religious institution until the bible was written. If anything, religion has ruined marriage and the definition of marriage.

"Then if someone want to get married they go to a religious site."

Does that mean Atheists and Agnostics shouldn't be allowed to marry?

1:22PM PST on Dec 13, 2009

I believe the country shouldn't be involved in marriage which is a religious institution. Why not instead issue partnership papers to all people wanting to legalize their union (ie male,/female, male/male, female/female). Then if someone want to get married they go to a religious site. I am more then willing to give up my marriage license to allow people who love each other to legalize their union. This nullifies the whole issue by taking the word marriage out ot the equation. Then 2 the Marriage Protection Act wouldn't mean squat. If we're going to have 2nd class citizens then they should be able to pay 2nd class taxes. It's not fair to have an un-level playing field. All the arguments I hear about Gay marriage are the same ones I heard about Jewish/Christian marriage, White/any other race marriage and so one. The only issue should be are the people involved of legal age and that all parties are committed to being a family.. Love should always be rewarded. Someday we will look back (in the future I bet there will be unions that make our heads spin) and wonder what all the fuss was about.

6:14AM PST on Dec 12, 2009

I am happy that New Jersey has allowed gay marriage now, but a 7-6 vote is very close. I do not believe that someone has the right to decide if someone can marry the person they love.

5:33PM PST on Dec 11, 2009

It blew me away, to realize that "Loving vs. the State of Virginia", the Supreme Court decision that made it LEGAL IN ALL STATES FOR A BLACK PERSON TO MARRY A WHITE PERSON, happened as RECENTLY as 1967, when my {part-Native-American} daughter was A YEAR OLD!
Before 1967, then, in MANY States {including Virginia}, MIXED-RACE MARRIAGES WERE DECLARED ILLEGAL.
[And how SWEET AND APPROPRIATE, that one of the plaintiffs, a Black Woman, was named, Ms. LOVING! and that dear lady, has COME OUT IN SUPPORT OF GAY MARRIAGE!]
Some time in the rather near future, all this controversy will be looked at with THE SAME SENSE OF SHAME, that we now feel towards the past injustices this country's laws have done to OTHER RACES THAN "WHITE".

There are ups and downs now; but in the end, THE FORCES FOR JUSTICE ARE WINNING. Just as the forces for Civil Rights and Marriage
Rights for Black people, finally HAD to win.

We just have to HANG IN THERE.

The Religious Right, our MAIN enemy, realizes it is fighting a LOSING WAR AND A LOST CAUSE. That thought is driving them FRANTIC!

11:37AM PST on Dec 11, 2009

love is love period

6:56PM PST on Dec 10, 2009

Fear is what holds them back. Why should it matter 2 anyone else what others' do with their lives, how I wish the tables would turn for just enough time for people 2 realize what petty stuff they're worried about when there are violence/political/environemental/ehtical etc. problems that should be taking up our time/$.

1:15PM PST on Dec 10, 2009

It is unimaginable for me, that the senators will vote agianst the human right of gay people, to marry. That will be a contradiction to freedom and equal rights.

9:08AM PST on Dec 10, 2009

I agree that this is not an issue that should be voted on. As it is, the founding fathers are probably rolling in their graves for the "Tyranny of the majority" they had hoped to avoid. That said, It would be interesting for New Jersey to lead the way where even the most liberal of states and cities have failed. I hope it passes.

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