N.J. Governor Vetoes Move
to Legalize Gay Marriage
BY MaryAnn Spoto ©2012 Religion News Service
Gov. Chris Christie made good on his threat of a "swift" veto after the state Assembly voted on February 16 to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey.
With supporters imploring lawmakers to make history, the lower house passed the bill after hours of debate on a day that began with protests and prayer vigils under gloomy skies outside the Statehouse.
"Without question, this is a historic day in the state of New Jersey," said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, who, along with Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a fellow Democrat, made the measure a top priority.
The Senate, which failed to pass a gay marriage bill two years ago, easily approved it Monday.
Christie immediately vetoed the bill on February 17, saying a change in the traditional definition of marriage should be up to state voters at the ballot box.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a sponsor of the bill and one of two openly gay lawmakers, said supporters have until the legislative session ends in January 2014 to garner the nearly dozen more votes needed to override Christie's veto. He said it had won nearly 10 Assembly votes in recent weeks.
Assemblyman Troy Singleton, a sponsor, said that as a former altar boy at an urban Catholic parish, "this road wasn't very easy to get to." Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, a deaconess in her church, said she also struggled over her decision. "In my final hours, I came to the conclusion that the people sent me from my district here to vote for what was right and to protect all the people ... regardless of their gender, race, religion or sexual preference," she said. "This bill today is not a religious issue. It's a civil rights issue."
Republicans opposing the bill said the vote on gay marriage belongs to New Jersey residents--as Christie has urged--rather than the lawmakers and the governor.
"Who should be the ultimate judge on deciding this issue? Should it be the 121 of us in Trenton? Or should we let the people of New Jersey decide?" said Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz. "I trust the people of New Jersey and believe that they should be allowed to voice their opinion for a vote."
Gay marriage is legal in six states and the District of Columbia. A new Washington state law will take effect in June.