Gay marriage showdown in NJ

Big news out of Trenton: The Associated Press is reporting that Democrats in the New Jersey Legislature will reintroduce a gay marriage bill this week and have vowed to make same-sex unions a top priority two years after similar legislation was voted down. That doesn’t increase its chances of getting past Republican Governor Chris Christie, however.

Four people with direct knowledge of the draft bill told The Associated Press that Democrats’ priority for the new legislative session is to move the bill quickly through both houses of the Legislature and forward it to the governor, perhaps as early as next month.

Gov. Christie has said previously that he doesn’t support gay marriage.

The people, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the bill is still being drafted, said denying gay couples the ability to marry violates their civil rights. They say they hope that’s how the governor will see it, too.

Six other states and Washington, D.C., permit gay marriage.

New Jersey recognizes civil unions, but marriage equality advocates insist the law is flawed. They said it does not offer the legal protections of marriage as intended. The state’s main gay rights group and same-sex couples have sued.

Democrats tried but failed to shepherd a gay marriage bill through the Senate in the waning days of the Corzine administration in 2010 after Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, said he would sign it.

Fourteen senators voted for the bill. The measure needed 21 votes to pass.

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), abstained the last time this came to a vote in 2010 and has said he regretted not voting ever since. He has called his inaction on the bill “the biggest mistake” of his legislative career.

To indicate the importance he has since attached to the bill, Sweeney will be among its prime sponsors in the Senate along with incoming Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Sen. Ray Lesniak. It is being assigned the symbolic number S1, as the first bill of the new two-year session.

More of this AP story here.

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