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Corzine: I prefer civil unions for NJ

“It’s my own view that that’s where our society is at this moment in time. I personally have a traditional view, but I believe that should be framed in equal rights for everyone, and that’s exactly what the court argued.”
— Governor Jon Corzine on his preference that New Jersey enact a civil unions law for gay couples rather than allow them to marry.

Earlier this month, the NJ governor said that if the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, that he wouldn’t sign legislation that would take away people’s rights. However, that’s not quite the same as endorsing “marriage.” More tap dancing and confusion, as Garden State Equality felt he had endorsed “marriage” for gays and lesbians. (NYT):

A review of a dozens of newspaper articles about Mr. Corzine’s Senate campaign in 2000 turned up 10 that stated flatly he supported gay marriage. He is not quoted directly, however; he is simply described as supporting gay marriage during debates and on the campaign trail. Other articles from 2000 cite Mr. Corzine’s support for civil unions.

Mr. [Steven] Goldstein [of GSE] said Mr. Corzine had clearly stated during the Democratic primary in 2000 that he preferred gay marriage, but that he began openly embracing civil unions during the general-election campaign to appeal to the wider electorate.

Anthony Coley, Mr. Corzine’s spokesman, said the newspaper stories from 2000 indicating support for gay marriage were not consistent with Mr. Corzine’s responses to questionnaires to gay groups in 2000 and 2005, the year he ran for governor, or with other newspaper stories.

“It seems that some folks are confusing his opposition to a federal amendment to the Constitution banning gay marriage with support for gay marriage,” Mr. Coley said. “The two are not the same. During his run for the Senate in 2000, Jon Corzine was for civil unions, and that remains his preference today.”

The article indicates that Senate President Richard J. Codey may do a little foot-dragging on this, placing it on the legislative back burner (it has 180 days to deal with the issue of altering existing marriage law, or expanding domestic partnership law.

“It’s much too early,” Mr. Codey said, pointing out that lawmakers already had a heavy schedule this fall dealing with the issue of property taxes.

Still, they seemed to have settled on the middle road that the majority of the court prescribed. They said they would not allow a vote to overturn the ruling with a constitutional amendment, but also discounted prospects for a law extending the term “marriage” to same-sex couples.

“I don’t see, at this point in time, a majority of both houses being in favor of marriage as opposed to civil unions,” Mr. Codey said. “It’s more likely to be civil unions.”

A “Marriage Equity Act” will introduced to the legislature by sponsor Reed Gusciora (D-Princeton); the next session of the state’s Assembly is scheduled for Nov. 9. He doesn’t appear to be optimistic about how it will fare:

“When you talk about civil rights, sometimes you have to do things incrementally, and that might have to do that another day.”


A couple of updates from other states…

* Indiana wingnuts continue push for a state marriage amendment.

Indiana state Republicans, hoping to hold on to control of the House, said Thursday they intend to push the second phase of a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage.

The proposed amendment passed the House and Senate last year (story). It must pass a second time in 2007 before going to voters in 2008.

The proposed amendment would also deep-six civil unions, put domestic partnership benefits and legal protections for unmarried het couples in jeopardy.

* Alaska legislature is reconvening to address state partner benefits. Alaska already has a marriage amendment, so this is a positive development for gay folks living up there. Ironically, it places Alaskan couples in the same legal position as those in NJ — a “separate but equal” path, despite the amendment.

Gov. Frank Murkowski is calling back the legislature for a special session to pass a benefits package for the same-sex partners of state employees. The session will begin Nov 13 Murkowski’s spokesperson John Manly said on Friday.

Last year the state Supreme Court ruled the state must establish benefits to same-sex partners of its employees in response to an action filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and nine Alaska couples.

The high court ruled that because same-sex couples are prohibited from marrying in Alaska, denying them rights extended to married couples deprives them of equal protection guaranteed under the Alaska Constitution.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding