New Jersey’s Democratic legislators say gay marriage is a civil rights issue and will make it their top priority in the new session, but the bill will likely end up in a veto battle with Gov. Chris Christie. The last attempt to legalize same-sex marriage lost in the Senate by a 14-20 vote, reports www.njsportlight.com
, but Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, says he now has the 21 votes needed to pass the vote.
Sweeney abstained from the vote in 2009, but this time around will support the bill. Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, and other Democrats said in a news conference they vow to push the issue, but Sweeney didn’t answer questions about whether there are enough votes to override Christie’s likely veto.
“We’ll work to do what we have to do. We’re going to work toward an override if necessary,” said Sweeney “We have many more Democratic votes.”
Democratic Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a co-sponsor of the 2009 bill that the Senate voted down, made a point of saying yesterday that Republican Sen. Jennifer Beck supports the bill, even though she opposed it two years ago.
The same-sex marriage bill will be numbered S1 in the upper House and A1 in the Assembly, with Sweeney saying as a civil rights measure, it deserves the top spot.
Oliver said the fight for same-sex marriage rivals that of biracial marriage in years past.
“Civil unions send a message to the public that same-sex couples and their families are not equal to married couples in the eyes of the law,” Oliver said. “It sends a message that same-sex couples are not good enough to warrant equality. This is the same wrong message we heard from segregation laws.”
Supporters of same-sex marriage say the current civil union law, passed in December 2006, isn’t working. The current law is meant to give couples the same rights that straight married couples enjoy, including family leave benefits, health insurance, pension benefits, and more.
If the gay marriage bill passes, it will change the legal status of those already living in civil unions. Those in such unions could either dissolve them, get married, or stay together and be considered legally married within 60 days. The bill also would protect clergy members’ beliefs by not forcing them to perform gay weddings.
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