NJ Marriage Battle Clears 1st Hurdle. Three to go.
Jay Lassiter's plans for attending the NJ Senate hearing yesterday were interrupted by a spontaneous pro-equality counter-demonstration against the Phelps cult in his own town of Cherry Hill. Watching this, I know that even if the vote is insufficient Thursday, NJ is not far from equality. — Lurleen
Cherry Hill, NJ– The NJ Senate Judiciary voted on gay marriage equality yesterday, but the real action was downstate in Cherry Hill.
Note from Lurleen: Blue Jersey has been the blog of record for the NJ marriage equality fight. Below the fold are excerpts from some of their recent posts. I encourage you to click over and read the posts in their entirety.
Reflections from the Overflow Room, by Deborah Jacobs, ACLU-NJ Executive Director
The vast majority of those testifying at last nights Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on marriage equality told moving stories of love, family and justice. We heard from families who had overcome harrowing obstacles and given back to society in humbling ways, children holding out hope that their parents would be allowed to marry each other like their friends' families, and some 50 clergy who wanted to marry their congregants.
In testimony from the other side, although the topic was marriage equality, free speech seemed to play the part of star witness.
One Hasidic rabbi – of whom there were many – voiced particular concern that he would be legally barred from condemning same-sex marriage in his synagogue.
Huh? As an authority on the First Amendment, be assured that you can still slam same-sex marriage all you want at temple.
After the rabbis took the stage, John Tomicki of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage (which represents, as far as I can tell, no one) somehow wound his argument to say that allowing marriage equality infringed upon his religious freedom rights and therefore his right to religious expression. He then asked the senators if they would represent him if he preached his beliefs on the street corner
Hey, over here…the ACLU will represent you. Free speech in public places is one of our specialties. Just give us a call (no need to meet in person).
And finally, I spoke with a guy from Knights of Columbus (to his wife’s terror) who was dead sure that marriage equality would result in dramatic free speech infringements. “Just look at what happened in Canada”; he told me five or six times.
What happened in Canada? Nothing as far as I know. But anyway, we don't live in Canada. And we have a really strong First Amendment; Canada doesn't.
The spirit of Rick Santorum hovered in the room as opponents let loose their far-fetched fears that marriage between gay couples would lead to polygamy, underage marriage and, if I heard right, bestiality. Our country has seen steady progress over the past few decades in wiping out homophobia. We’ve learned that marriage in Massachusetts hasn’t brought society to a halt. Our culture has become familiar with images of gay couples raising families and living ordinary lives. Our opponents have but one thing to cling to: scare tactics. It makes you realize how scared they must be, when they’re swinging desperately in the committee hearing room. (Unfortunately, confronting those irrational fears will be an ongoing project for our side).
The absurdity of the opposition's arguments in yesterday’s committee room made me realize that even though this fight is far from over, it’s fundamentally over. … How soon it happens depends on how smart and strategic we can be. …
A number of equality opponents (including some senators) seemed to want to cut their losses by appearing to support civil unions and legislatively “fix” the terrible problems that couples in CUs face. Of course, the problem is the prohibition of the word "marriage" itself, and all the social meaning that goes along with it. You cannot legislate a fix to that within the CU framework. The only fix is what the present legislation calls for: granting equal access to the word “marriage”. So it is an appropriate moment for joeynovick to remind us what NJ Supreme Court Chief Justice Poritz said in her dissent in the Lewis v. Harris marriage ruling: The Mahatma and Ms. Poritz
…I must harken back to the Lewis v. Harris decision, where Chief Justice Poritz was way head of her time. The Chief Justice wrote her own dissent, and called for same-sex unions to be called "marriage", and not the made-up construct of 'civil unions'. For those Senators and Assembly members considering the issue of marriage equality—here are some things Chief Justice Poritz had to say, that may help make the issue more clear.
"I can find no principled basis, however, on which to distinguish those rights and benefits from the right to the title of marriage, and therefore dissent from the majority's opinion insofar as it declines to recognize that right among all of the other rights and benefits that will be available to same-sex couples in the future."
"Under the majority opinion, it appears that persons who exercise their individual liberty interest to choose same-sex partners can be denied the fundamental right to participate in a state- sanctioned civil marriage. I would hold that plaintiffs' due process rights are violated when the State so burdens their liberty interests."
"[The plaintiffs] ask to participate, not simply in the tangible benefits that civil marriage provides — although certainly those benefits are of enormous importance — but in the intangible benefits that flow from being civilly married." …
What some of the senators had to say as they voted:
|Senate judiciary committee vote to approve same-sex marriage bill|