We know from past experience that civil unions among same sex couples, for some reason, don’t carry the same weight as unions that include the word “marriage.”

So here we go again…would you support the effort to get a same sex marriage referendum initiative…much like the one openly gay lawmaker Assemblyman Reid Gusciora is calling?

New Jersey’s first openly gay state lawmaker is proposing a ballot measure for voters to decide whether the state should recognize same-sex marriage — a suggestion similar to the one gay-marriage opponent Gov. Chris Christie made less than a year ago.

At the time, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora opposed the governor’s suggestion and compared him to segregationists of earlier decades who wanted civil rights issues decided by majority vote. For that, Christie called the lawmaker “numb nuts.”

But now Gusciora has changed his mind, emboldened by November elections when voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state approved same-sex marriage and Minnesota voters defeated a state constitutional amendment to ban it.

Gusciora says the state Legislature might not be able to get a gay marriage bill past “the bully-in-chief” governor and the courts may not rule favorably for gay rights advocates.

He says a popular vote on legalizing gay marriage is not his top choice but it is worth a try if marriage rights cannot be won otherwise.

“At this point, we have no other choice,” Gusciora said. 
The lawmaker’s 180-degree turn on that point in the gay marriage debate reflects the shifting politics surrounding the issue in New Jersey.

Social conservatives who oppose legal status for gay couples are now among the most ardent defenders of New Jersey’s civil-union law. The state Senate president, who played a key role in blocking a bill to allow same-sex nuptials three years ago, is now among its biggest supporters.

Here’s the problem, if you will.

The Supreme Court has no inclination to take up the issue anytime soon.

The legislature would have to muster the required number of votes in order to be able to override a guaranteed veto by the Governor. They’d conceivably have until January of 2014 to do that.

So if this were to be as pressing a matter as some believe it to be, then why not put the issue on the ballot and have the voters decide as to whether same sex couples joined in marriage should have all the legal protections as traditionally married couples?

Much of it hinges on the word “marriage”…which many believe to be defined as the union of one man and one woman.

The other issue is whether or not it’s prudent to have the people vote on a civil rights issue for a minority.

Had that been the case 50 years ago, laws like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 might never have seen the light of day.

Given all that, despite the objections of Senate President Steve Sweeney, who believes the legislature alone should decide whether or not to approve same sex marriage in New Jersey, I’d say the ballot initiative would be the most expeditious way to deal with the issue…however fraught with landmines it might be.

What say you?