Legalizing gay marriage in New Jersey is a top priority and it will be put on the fast-track according to four high-ranking sources within the Democratic Leadership team.

The insiders who would only speak on the condition of anonymity say the first bill to be introduced for the new legislative session in the State Senate this Tuesday will be the Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act.

Listen to Kevin McArdle's report


Designating the same-sex marriage legislation as S-1 has real significance because it sends the message that the measure is the top issue. Sources tell Townsquare Media News that the co-sponsors will be Senate Democratic Leader Loretta Weinberg, State Senator Ray Lesniak and State Senate President Steve Sweeney. They say Sweeney wants, “to right a wrong.”

Two years ago yesterday, a gay marriage bill failed in the Upper House. Then-Majority Leader Sweeney did not cast a vote at all. He has since said publicly, “That was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in government and I couldn’t live with myself after that.”

Garden State Equality chairman and CEO, Steven Goldstein says, “We are simply elated that Senate President Steve Sweeney is not only a supporter of marriage equality now, he’s leading the way on the new marriage equality bill.”



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The insiders say that in 2009 and 2010 Democrats failed because they didn’t frame their argument well enough. They insist that this time around they will explain that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue, not a political issue or a religious issue. Then-Governor Jon Corzine said he would’ve signed the bill into law if the legislature would’ve passed it.

Governor Chris Christie is on record saying he’s, “not a fan” of same-sex marriage and he wouldn’t support it. Democratic sources say, “We’re not asking for the Governor’s permission and we’re not backing down or backing off.” They are hopeful Christie will read the bill and understand it as a civil rights issue. They feel if that happens he would see it makes no sense for him to block it.

Christie is campaigning today in New Hampshire for GOP Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney who openly opposes gay marriage, but supports ‘partnership agreements.’ The New Hampshire is expected to vote soon whether to repeal a 2009 gay marriage law. Romney recently told a voter there that he supports the repeal effort. "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” he told the voter, who turned out to be a gay veteran.

Our insiders say Democratic leaders in the Assembly are on board and “committed” to the issue. The bill is being re-introduced first in the Senate because that’s where it failed in 2010. The Assembly did not post the bill for a vote once it was rejected in the Upper House. The sources say Sweeney, Weinberg and Lesniak are hopeful the new bill can quickly move out of committee and be posted for a vote in the full Senate as early as next month.


Confidence is high within the Democratic Party that there are enough votes to pass the legislation in both houses possibly with bi-partisan support. They hope Republican members will support the bill because they claim (but cannot confirm) that nationally, not one legislator has ever lost a seat after voting “yes” for same-sex marriage

The proposed measure is permissive in that it doesn’t require churches to perform gay weddings if they are opposed to them. They would not be required to rent out their facilities for such events either.


Many people feel Governor Christie will not sign a same-marriage bill if one passes the legislature and lands on his desk. Widespread opinion is that he would veto such a measure, but there is a third option. Christie doesn’t have what is called “pocket veto” authority. If he simply ignores the bill for 45 days it would automatically become law. Christie would not be on record as supporting or rejecting the legislation.

New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont are the only six states that currently allow same-sex marriage. It’s also legal in the District of Columbia.