Destined for veto, marriage equality bill passes in N.J.

Although it faces a certain veto, a bill legalizing gay marriage in New Jersey won approval in the Assembly by a vote of 42-33.

Advocates celebrated passage of the marriage-equality measure, calling it a dream come true, while opponents maintained the state’s civil union law provides all the rights and privileges sought by gay couples.

Following hours of debate, all the Assembly Republicans and four Democrats voted against it.  Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, expressing the views of many Democrats, said New Jersey’s civil union law is not working.

“We are currently subjugating a portion of our constituency to unequal treatment under the law,” she said.

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Speaking against the bill, Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, said the state’s civil union law is sufficient.

“I do not believe gay and lesbian couples have the right to make their desires able to override or redefine the institution of marriage for everyone else in this society,” he said.

Garden State Equality Chairman Steven Goldstein said the Assembly passage of the measure, following Senate approval, is a milestone.

“The Legislature has brought us to the edge of the promised land. We know the governor won’t let us enter, but we finally behold the view of our dreams, and we will never turn back,” he said.

Goldstein said the vote shows the Legislature wants marriage equality. That legislative intent will be significant when the courts consider the lawsuit challenging whether the state’s civil union law provides the same rights and protections that married couple have, Goldstein said.

While the bill faces a veto by Gov. Chris Christie, advocates hope to persuade more lawmakers to support the idea in the nearly two years they will have to override a veto before the current legislative session ends.

Following the vote, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, offered another scenario.

“I hope the governor reconsiders,” Gusciora said. “Scrooge, after a good night sleep, he changed his mind, and I think there’s hope for the governor.”

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