Unified Coalition Pushes for Gay Marriage in NJ [AUDIO]
A coalition of national and statewide equality and civil rights groups are banding together to bring gay marriage to New Jersey.
The group, called New Jersey United For Marriage, combines the Garden State Equality, The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, American Unity Fund, Freedom to Marry, Gill Action Fund, Human Rights Campaign, and Lambda Legal.
At a rally in Asbury Park on Wednesday, the group says they will lobby legislators on both sides of the aisle to overturn Governor Christie’s veto of same sex marriage, or if need be achieve it through legal litigation. However, the coalition refuses to take the issue to a referendum.
The effort comes soon after the United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and supporters believe now is the time to secure what they believe are their constitutional rights.
“Our Supreme Court has spoken, it is time. Now is the time, and now is the time for everyone to band together and let’s move on with our lives. All we want to do is live our lives as loving couples and part of a family.”
In addition to leaders of the various equality groups, same sex couples, and clergy spoke about the challenges LGBT couples face. Many of the speakers were same sex couples in committed relationships spanning several decades, who felt insulted their commitments weren’t being recognized by the state.
New Jersey is the only state on the North East coast to not legalize same sex marriage, and while it does offer civil unions, many noted they fall woefully short in many ways. Jay Lassiter of Cherry Hill man noted, while many people think about weddings as a ceremony, marriage comes with a swath of other legal and financial benefits.
“It’s not just about wedding cake and throwing rice and having the dances with the bride, I mean it’s about dollars and cents, and it’s about protecting our families,” he said. “Gay people get screwed if they want to visit their partner in the hospital in a state that’s not hospitable to gay rights, or when their partner dies and we have to pay a hefty estate tax.”
The group hopes to get a vote to overturn the veto within the year, and have received bi-partisan support. Advocates believe, socially and politically, New Jersey is ready for same sex marriage.
“More people realize that they have gay family members, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, coworkers, and they want those people to have the same rights they do,” said an advocate in attendance.