NJ Gay Marriage Bill Passes, Chris Christie’s Veto Looms [AUDIO]
Yesterday, the full General Assembly passed a bill to legalize gay marriage in New Jersey. The State Senate approved the measure on Monday. The fate of the legislation is now in Governor Chris Christie's hands and he's likely holding a veto pen in one of them.
Following two hours of mostly cordial debate, the Assembly passed the same-sex marriage bill 42-33. No Republicans voted in favor of it. Assembly members Nelson Albano, Joe Egan, Matt Milam and Gary Schaer were the four Democrats to vote against it. Five members of the house were not present.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, New Jersey's first openly gay State lawmaker co-sponsors the marriage equality bill. He says, "I cannot change who I am. Otherwise it begs the question why I wouldn't. Why wouldn't the countless LGBT teens who struggle with bullying on a daily basis change? Is it any wonder why suicide among gay teenagers continues to plague our country? Do we not realize the isolation it causes young gays and lesbians when the government reinforces a culture that proclaims 'you are different and will be treated as such.'"
In a moving statement, Gusciora recalled, "I received one particular text from a friend who saw me on TV with her 10 yr old daughter. Her daughter said to her mom, "hey, don't I know that guy? - and, after explaining why I was on TV, the girl then said she couldn't understand why everyone can't get married?"
"Let us ensure constitutional civil rights and equal protection under the law for all New Jersey citizens," says Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver who also sponsors the gay marriage bill. "We know that denying rights and benefits to committed same-sex couples that are statutorily given to their heterosexual counterparts violates equal protection under the law. So, let's end the pernicious practice of discrimination in civil marriage in New Jersey."
"Today, the Legislature has brought us to the promised land," says Steven Goldstein, chairman of the gay rights group Garden State Equality. "We know the governor won't let us enter, but we finally behold the view of our dreams and we will never turn back."
Earlier this week, Christie said, "They won't get enough votes to override my veto….If they pass it on Thursday and send it to my desk believe me I will take very swift action on the bill and then we can move on to the things that the people of New Jersey say are most important to them which is creating jobs, lowering taxes and continuing the New Jersey comeback. That's what we should be focused on, not the last month that we've spent on what really is an act of theater."
The Governor did not veto the bill yesterday, but that could be because it wasn't sent to his desk. The Assembly Democrats are taking advantage of a clause in the State Constitution (Article 4, Section1) that reads: When a bill has finally passed both houses, the house in which final action was taken to complete its passage shall cause it to be presented to the Governor before the close of the calendar day next following the date of the session at which such final action was taken.
In plain English, the clause gives the Assembly Democrats until the close of business today to send the bill to Christie's desk. A spokesman for the Majority says he's not sure if the bill will be sent to Christie prior to or right at the deadline. This leads the Governor's spokesman to say it's unclear when Christie will even get the chance to veto it. Some insiders say this is a stroke of genius on the part of Democrats because it prevents the Governor's veto from being the story with the gay marriage bill's passage being an afterthought.
Bill Co-Sponsor Holds Out Hope
Clearly an optimist, Gusciora says, "I hope the Governor reconsiders (the veto). Scrooge, after a good night's sleep, he changed his mind and I think there's hope for the Governor."
Democrats would have until January of 2014 to override Christie's veto. It would take 27 Senators and 54 Assembly members to do that. That means 3 GOP Senators and 5 GOP Assembly members would have to defy the Republican Governor. Democrats claim to believe that's not impossible.
Christie and most Republican lawmakers want gay marriage put to a popular vote. Democrats say gay marriage is a civil right protected by the Constitution and should not be subject to referendum.
Six states and Washington, D.C. recognize gay marriages. Washington State's new gay marriage law takes effect in June. The affirmative vote in the Democrat-controlled Assembly ended speculation over whether the measure had the votes to pass. The Senate passed the bill 24-16 vote Monday.