NJ Dems Chart Same-Sex Marriage Strategies [AUDIO]
In deciding its first cases on the same-sex marriage issue Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of a federal anti-gay marriage law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits that are available to most married couples.
New Jersey supporters of marriage equality say they are re-energized by the ruling, but the game plan for legalizing gay marriage in the Garden State isn't clear.
At this moment in time, there are only two realistic options for those seeking to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey. They can hope the State Supreme Court hands down a ruling that's favorable to them or they can push lawmakers to put a question on this November's ballot asking voters if they'd like to amend the constitution to allow gay marriage.
There are two other options, but they've proven fruitless. The legislature could pass a bill legalizing gay marriage, but Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed that bill before and vows to do it again. The Democrat-controlled legislature could try to override Christie's veto, but they've failed in every previous attempt to do that.
"We have a couple of prime approaches," says Sen. President Steve Sweeney. "One of them is the court where the lawsuit is and the other one is an override."
After meeting with gay rights advocates and fellow lawmakers Sweeney thinks they've developed a strategy, but he won't divulge it publicly nor will he give a timeframe for the latter option.
"I'm going to get one shot at this, at an override," explains Sweeney. "I have to position the Senate in the very best place possible in order to do an override…..When we feel the time is right we'll do it. We had some members and I respectfully disagreed with them, that wanted us to do it today."
It would take a minimum of three Republican votes in the Senate for the override to be successful. That's if all 24 Democrats vote for it. Democrats have yet to succeed in an override attempt of a Christie veto.
"A motion to the State Supreme Court will quickly provide gay couples the right to marry," says Sen. Ray Lesniak,a longtime proponent. "The significance of the DOMA decision means marriage equality in New Jersey will soon be law."
Essentially the Supreme Court has affirmed that all men and women are created equal and should be treated accordingly regardless of whom they love according to Assemblyman Tim Eustace, one of the prime sponsors of New Jersey's marriage quality act, which was vetoed by Christie last year.
"For the first time in the 30 years my partner and I have been together and have raised a family, we no longer live in a vacuum in the eyes of our government," explains Eustace. "The only thing standing in the way of true victory now is for our state to finally recognize that separate but equal is not truly equal."
Earlier this week on Townsquare Media's "Ask the Governor" program, Christie made it clear where he stands on this issue.
"I thought it was a bad decision, but it has no effect on New Jersey at all, so we move from here," said the Governor. "If the people of the State of New Jersey want to amend our constitution in order to make same-sex marriage legal and permissible in the state they have every right to do it, and the only people who can give them that opportunity is the New Jersey State Legislature"
"If you honestly believe it's the right thing to do, and the proponents have said all along that the majority of people in New Jersey want it. Well then, put it on the ballot, then it will pass and that's the end of the discussion."