Eight years after court ruling, NJ Legislature OKs gay marriage
TRENTON – Same-sex marriage is on the verge of being written into state law in New Jersey, after proposed legislation was approved by both the Senate and Assembly Monday.
Such marriages have been performed in New Jersey since 2013 through a Superior Court decision, not a statute. Following Monday’s votes of 35-4 in the Senate and 53-10 with four abstentions in the Assembly, a signature from Gov. Phil Murphy is all that’s left before it is state law.
Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, issued another mea culpa for not supporting it in the past. He has called his 2010 vote to abstain on the idea the biggest mistake of his political career.
“As soon as I abstained – I know we all get this feeling, all of us do sometimes – where, what the hell did I just do? What kind of mistake did I just make?” Sweeney said. “But today I get to fix it.”
Three of the seven senators who spoke about the bill before the vote said their earlier opposition was a mistake.
“We live and we learn,” said Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, R-Somerset. “I think it’s a great day, and it’s long overdue.”
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg says the effort has gone on for longer than 18 years, starting with bills that sought to legalize domestic partnerships, then civil unions. The first gay-marriage bill to be passed by the Legislature was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, and the veto wasn’t overridden.
Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, the incoming Senate president, supported the earlier gay marriage votes that didn’t succeed.
“I guess it was the same way that I thought about marijuana and many other things,” Scutari said. “I thought it was the right thing to do then, and I hope that I continue to have the foresight that before something is popular but to do the right thing regardless.”
The Assembly voted Monday at around 11:15 p.m. to pass the same-sex marriage bill. It did so without debate, late in a session where Republicans spoke on a majority of the bills on the agenda.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at email@example.com.