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New Jersey’s Legislature Passes Marriage Equality Bill

And Governor Chris Christie says he will veto it. According to Garden State Equality, the legislature will have until January 2014 to override his veto.

Just in from Garden State Equality (via emailed press release):

Today, New Jersey became the third state in American history to pass a marriage equality bill under a Governor hostile to marriage equality. The Assembly just passed the bill 42 to 33, following Monday’s passage in the Senate 24 to 16. With Governor Chris Christie certain to veto the bill quickly, Garden State Equality now begins its campaign to override the veto. The legislature has until the end of this legislative session, January 2014, to do so.

Statement of Garden State Equality Chair and CEO Steven Goldstein:

“Since Stonewall, we have been on a 40-year journey toward our freedom. Today, the legislature has brought us to the edge of the promised land. We know the Governor won’t let us enter, but we finally behold the view of our dreams and we will never turn back.

“Today’s milestone came in the face of some of the toughest obstacles in the history of the marriage equality movement. Instead of a Governor twisting arms on our behalf, we have a Governor who twisted arms against us right up until the final votes in each chamber. And Garden State Equality’s budget was one-tenth of what it was two years ago.

“But we had the people and the passion – and the greatest leaders in Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green, Democratic Party Chair Assemblyman John Wisniewski, and the peerless pioneer in the New Jersey legislature, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora. We thank the unsung heroes of the legislative process – the legislative staff, especially the Assembly Majority and Senate Majority staff.

“We are exuberant advocates but also methodical strategists. To win an override, we will take the time we need, assisted by a changing world. Look how the world changed since the last vote two years ago. We have until the end of the legislative session, January 2014. The key is winning.

“We could not have achieved this milestone without our partner organizations. Freedom to Marry was the national linchpin that never stopped believing in Garden State Equality, not even after our profound disappointment two years ago, and made this milestone possible.

“The Human Rights Campaign lent us a spectacular field director and was invaluable and gracious at every juncture. The ACLU, The Task Force and Marriage Equality NY/USA gave us additional power. Our sisters and brothers in labor, especially the Communications Workers of America, have been relentless fighters by our side. Our state’s progressive blog, Blue Jersey, has been an unsurpassed voice for justice.

“And once again, we thank our spectacular lobbying firm, the Kaufman Zita Group, including Jeannine LaRue, Tom Wilson, Adam Kaufman and Trish Zita. They are second to none.

“Pursuing all roads to justice, Garden State Equality and seven-same sex couples will continue our lawsuit for marriage equality, where we are represented by Lambda Legal and the nationally renowned Gibbons law firm. With this victory, the courts will see the legislature’s clear intent to replace the state’s failed civil union law with marriage equality.”

Reaction from Freedom to MarryEvan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry, released the following statement:

“Today’s win in New Jersey is a joyous advance for committed gay and lesbian couples in the Garden State, for their families, and for the entire community.  In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously held that the constitution’s command of equality meant that the protections and responsibilities of marriage could no longer be denied to gay couples.  After experimenting with a separate civil union mechanism, today the Legislature took note that marriage matters, and equal means equal, and voted in favor of the freedom to marry.“Sadly, Governor Chris Christie has planted his feet on the wrong side of history, and the wrong side of the majority for marriage in New Jersey and nationwide.  If the governor sticks with his threat of a veto,  Freedom to Marry will work throughout the entire remainder of the legislative session, supporting local families, leaders, and advocates as they make the case and win the extra handful of votes needed to override the veto and do right by these families.


According to new polling from the Eagleton Center, 54 percent of New Jersey voters support marriage equality, an upswing of nearly ten points in two years.

“Today, the New Jersey State Legislature sent a powerful message that all its citizens should be treated equally under the law, and that all families deserve the same protections,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Governor Christie may veto this legislation, but he is out of step with the majority of voters on this issue. We will not give up until marriage equality becomes a reality in New Jersey.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding