Monday, December 07, 2009

NJ Considers Gay Marriage Legislation

With just a few weeks in Gov. Jon Corzine's term remaining, proponents for a gay marriage bill have little time to act before his successor, Chris Christie takes office. Christie is on the record as opposing the measure and vowed to veto the bill if he crosses his desk. Corzine would sign it into law.

However, it is all but certain that the legislation would make it to the governor's desk. Democrats and Republicans oppose the legislation, including Democrat Paul Sarlo, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill has to make it out of committee before the full Senate can vote on the measure.
Though similar legislation died in New York’s senate last week, proponents of gay marriage here think they still have a fighting chance and are focusing their lobbying efforts on senators they believe to be undecided about the issue.

Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) said lobbyists have been burning up the phone lines.

"Both sides are working furiously. Legislative offices are extremely busy with phone calls," he said. "Lobbying and lobbying and lobbying."

Advocates for same sex marriage see this as a last stand. In just over a month, Gov.-elect Chris Christie will take office. He has made it clear he will veto any gay marriage legislation that comes to his desk. However, Gov. Jon Corzine says he is prepared to sign it.

Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), chair of the judiciary committee, said he would be voting against the legislation (S1967/2978), but he expects it to pass by a narrow margin.

"I’ve fulfilled my commitment and now my next challenge is to run a fair and open hearing. I am not lobbying anybody for their vote. I advise the members to vote their conscience," he said.

Codey said the issue won’t be decided through backroom deals.

"This isn’t about making deals," he said. "This is about your conscience."
I give the gay marriage proposal a 50/50 chance of being approved in the Senate. It will probably get voted out of committee, where people might vote to allow everyone to register their votes, rather than kill it in committee.

The full text of the bill is here. The key provision is as follows:
3. (New section) “Marriage” means the legally recognized union of two consenting persons in a committed relationship. Whenever the term “marriage” occurs or the term “man,” “woman,” “husband” or “wife” occurs in the context of marriage or any reference is made thereto in any law, statute, rule, regulation or order, the same shall be deemed to mean or refer to the union of two persons pursuant to this amendatory and supplementary act.

4. (New section) It is the intent of the Legislature that this amendatory and supplementary act be interpreted consistently with the guarantees of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and of Article I, paragraph 4 of the New Jersey Constitution.
Marriage would no longer be defined strictly as between a man and woman, but rather between two consenting adults. It would supersede the civil union legislation passed several years ago, and other legislative changes would incorporate the new definition into relevant statutes.

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