An attempt to legalize SSM in the state failed during 2010-JAN when the bill was not passed by the state Senate.
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, who is the New Jersey Legislature's only openly gay member, introduced Bill A4130 on JUN-13 that is intended to extend marriage in the state to include same-sex couples.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a Republican and a Roman Catholic. In an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN, he repeated his promise to veto any bill that would grant marriage equity to same-sex couples. He said:
"I couldn't change my mind on that, but I am in favor of making sure that homosexual couples have the same type of legal rights that homosexuals couples have."2
It is unlikely that he means exactly what he said, because to many same-sex couples, the most important legal right that they seek is enjoyed by all opposite-gender married couples: the right to call their relationship a marriage, and to register it as such with the state goverment.
In referring to "homosexual couples" he overlooks the fact that many same-sex couples are composed of one person with a bisexual orientation and one with a homosexual orientation, or are composed of two bisexuals.
He also told Piers Morgan that he does not view same-gender sexual behavior as a sin. He said:
"Well my religion says it’s a sin. I mean I think - but for me? I don’t - I’ve always believed that people are born with the predisposition to be homosexual, and so I think if someone is born that way, it’s very difficult to say then that that’s a sin. But I understand that my Church says that [it is a sin]. But for me personally, I don’t look upon someone who’s homosexual as a sinner." 2
During an interview on NBC News' "Meet the Press" on 2011-JUN-26, he repeated his opposition to SSM. He said:
"We had a very vigorous debate in late 2009, early 2010 -- before I became governor -- about same-sex marriage, and it failed in the state legislature under a Democratic legislature with Democratic Governor Jon Corzine. And so my view on it is, in our state we're going to continue to pursue civil unions... I am not a fan of same-sex marriage. It's not something that I support." 4
Without the support of the governor to accept the will of the Legislature, both houses would have to obtain a veto-proof majority. That is essentially impossible in today's climate. One scenario would have all of the Democrats voting in favor of the bill -- which is possible -- plus three or more Republicans -- which is very unlikely. Governor Cuomo in New York state pulled this magic off, but that was a special case.
However, recent national polls on SSM have indicated that a significant majority of American adults now favor changing the definition of marriage to make it available to all loving committed couples -- both opposite gender and same gender:
2011-MAR-10-13: A national Washington Post/ABC News poll reported that 53% of American adults supported same-sex marriage; 44% were opposed. This is a margin of 9 percentage points in favor of SSM!
2011-APR-03: A remarkable survey in New York state -- one of the more liberal states in the U.S., and a state that borders New Jersey -- showed that 58% of registered voters supported SSM while only 36% were opposed . This is a margin of 22 percentage points! Support among Democrats was 65%, Whites: 62%; young voters: 74%; Roman Catholics 59%; and non Judeo-Christians: 78%.
2011-MAY-05-08: A national Gallup Inc. poll found essentially the same results as did the earlier Washington Post/ABC News poll: 53% support and 45% opposition for a margin of 8 percentage points in favor of SSM. The sampling error is ±4 percentage points. Further, some recent polls recently showed that the percentage of American adults who strongly supported SSM is about equal to the percentage strongly opposed.
Since New Jersey is a relatively liberal state on cultural matters, the margin of support for SSM is probably greater than the national average. The end result is that support for SSM is sufficiently great that many politicians would lose votes if they did not follow the will of the majority of their constituents and vote in favor of SSM.
The path forward:
With the Governor willing to impose his personal beliefs and veto any SSM bill approved by the legislature, there appear to be only two possible paths forward towards achieving marriage equality in New Jersey:
Attempt to prove in a court of law that the civil unions in New Jersey are not equivalent to marriage, as required by the decision of the Supreme Court of New Jersey during 2006-OCT. A lawsuit has been launched to attempt this.
Wait for the governor to resign, an unlikely option.
Wait for the possibility of the governor being replaced in 2013.
Attempt to override the governor's veto. This would appear to be hopeless. Any SSM bill passed by the New Jersey legislature would undoubtedly pass by a slim margin in both Houses. A 2/3 vote in both Houses of the Legislature would seem to be way out of reach. Matt Friedman of the Star Ledger reports:
"They’re talking about it in New York," said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), the state’s only openly gay lawmaker, who proposed a bill (A4130) on Monday [2011-JUN-13] to legalize same-sex marriage. 'Why aren’t we talking about it in New Jersey'?"
"In New York, where gay marriage failed two years ago, supporters are within a vote of passing it in the Republican-controlled Senate."
"In New Jersey, it’s the first time a lawmaker has put forward a bill on gay marriage since it was defeated in the state Senate in January 2010 — just before Gov. Chris Christie took office."
"Nor is it likely to go much further in New Jersey this time. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, says he’ll sign a measure approving gay marriage, but Christie, a Republican, is not so inclined. Although supporters say they’ve persuaded several New Jersey Democrats who abstained last time to vote yes, that won’t matter unless they can get every Democrat on board and pick off three Republicans to make a veto-proof majority of 27 votes." 5
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Carlos Santoscoy, "Chris Christie Won't Consider Signing Gay Marriage Bill," On Top magazine, 2011-JUN-16, at: http://www.ontopmag.com/