It was standing-room-only at a committee hearing in Trenton today as the Assembly Judiciary panel takes testimony on a bill to legalize gay marriage in New Jersey. The committee approved the bill just after 5pm after seven hours of testimony.  The bill has already been approved by a State Senate committee and top Democrats hope both full houses will vote on the measure this month. Governor Chris Christie vows to veto the bill if it passes.

The testimony has been very emotionally charged. 15-year-old Madison Galluccio is the daughter of two gay fathers. Her words brought several Assembly members to tears. She said, “We aren’t different. I’m not different and I shouldn’t have to be forced to feel like I’m different…..My parents will be married and I will make sure that this happens until the day that I die……Please, will you help me? Help me feel equal.”

Opponents of the same-sex marriage bill say the state’s current civil union law is sufficient. They also point out that marriage is and always has been the union of one man and one woman. The Governor feels the voters should decide the issue with a November ballot question.

“The creation of civil unions has produced a separate-but-equal system, and as we know from our history classes, separate-but-equal is as unconstitutional as it is inherently unequal,” says Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, the lead sponsor of the bill. “Why is it that a same-sex couple in another state such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts or New York, can be duly married, yet when they cross the border into New Jersey they become civil unionized? A marriage law in New Jersey would make a significant difference in providing equality and dignity to same-sex couples and their children.”


Senate President Steve Sweeney issued the following statement today regarding Governor Christie’s proposed marriage equality referendum:

"It's time for everyone, from the governor to the chattering observers, to stop talking about a marriage equality referendum in terms of 'if.' There will be no referendum on marriage equality in New Jersey, period.

"Someone once said that 'the rule for effective government is simple: When you see a problem, you fix it.' Unfortunately, the governor is failing to live up to his own words. He and some of his colleagues could stand to learn from Washington State, where yesterday the Senate passed marriage equality. They did it with the votes of four Republican Senators who stood up for justice and equality, rather than simply shrug off their responsibility as legislators to act.

"Real leaders take action. When the Senate votes on this issue on February 13, it will be a very simple choice: you either support marriage equality, or you don't. There is no third option.”