Legalizing Gay Marriage in NJ Moves Forward [POLL/AUDIO]
The push to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey takes a big step forward in Trenton after a meeting among Democrats Thursday.
The two prime sponsors of the measure emerged yesterday from the closed-door, high level meeting and revealed they have a strategy to employ a two-pronged attack to advance the issue. Governor Chris Christie is actually on board with one of the options.
"We met with both Senate and Assembly leadership to talk about how we go forward with the Governor's veto of the marriage equality bill," explained Assemblyman Reed Gusciora. "There's a commitment to have a vote for an override." Last year, Governor Christie vetoed a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the Garden State.
Gusciora says the override attempt will be done soon, and in the meantime he and co-sponsor Assemblyman Tim Eustace are going to take leadership positions with various gay stakeholders and organizations to get people marching in the streets to sway public opinion and to persuade some legislators to support gay marriage.
In order for an override attempt to be successful, 27 Senators and 54 Assembly members would have to support it. That means 3 Republicans in the Upper House and 6 Republicans in the People's House would have to defy Christie. That's not only unlikely, it's unheard of. Democrats have failed in every override attempt since Christie took office.
"What we're going to do first is try and make the veto override successful," said Eustace. "That's plan 'A.' Plan 'B' we'll talk about afterwards."
Eustace and Gusciora are actually talking about plan 'B' already. If the veto override fails, they vow to work to put a question on the ballot asking voters if they'd like to amend the State Constitution to allow same-sex marriage in New Jersey.
This November all 120 seats in the legislature are up for grabs as is the Governor's office. Having a gay marriage ballot question along with a question to raise the minimum wage by a dollar would likely bring out the Democratic base and not only help get Democratic incumbents re-elected, but also possibly help gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono close the gap with Christie. A recent poll shows Buono 42 points behind Christie.
"Leadership has made the commitment for a veto override and I think the door remains open for a plan 'B,'" explained Gusciora. "Senate President (Steve) Sweeney stepped up to the plate and said that he wants to post the override first in his House and I respect that and I applaud Senator Sweeney for doing that."
Gusciora knows that Sweeney doesn't support putting the issue to the voters, but explains, "To Senator Sweeney's credit he's taken the position that civil rights is not appropriate for the ballot which I don't disagree with, but at this point I think that we have no other choice and nothing to lose."
Because legislation wasn't advanced last year, without any Republican votes, it would take the support of all 24 Senate Democrats and all 48 Assembly Democrats to get the question on this year's ballot.
Governor Christie Responds
Christie is confident Democrats will never be able to muster the votes to override his veto, but he's actually okay with the idea of asking voters to have the final say.
"I've said all along that on this issue I am comfortable with the people of the state of New Jersey making the decision on whether gay marriage should be legal or not in this State" said Christie, "That's the right way to make this decision. That is a major societal change and that type of major societal change should be decided by the people who it's going to affect."