2012-JAN-18: Is Governor Chris Christie's position softening?:
If the Legislature approves a SSM bill and sends it to the Governor, he has three options:
He could follow the wishes of the Legislature, the wishes of a significant plurality of the NJ voters, the wishes of the LGBT community, and the requirements of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution's "equal protection" clause and sign it into law.
He could agree with the majority of Republican legislators and a significant plurality of Republican voters in New Jersey and veto the bill.
He could do nothing and the bill would become law after a period of time.
There are rumors that Christie has aspirations of being the Vice Presidential candidate in the 2012 elections. Signing the bill into law or allowing it to become law by default would essentially terminate any future that he might hope to have in the Republican party at the national level.
According to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a group whose main goal is to prevent access to marriage by same-sex couples, Governor Christie's (R) may be softening his earlier position towards SSM:
During 2099, he delivered a speech to a group of New Jersey Republicans:
"If a same-sex marriage bill comes to the desk of Governor Christie, it will be returned to the legislature with a big red veto across it. Because, one, I believe that and I made it very clear to people during the entire campaign that that was my position and so there will be no surprise for the 1.2 million people who voted for me that that was and that is my position."
But early in 2012-JAN, he told a reporter what he would do if a bill legalizing SSM arrived on his desk. He said:
"When forced to make a decision, if forced to make a decision on it, I'll make a decision."
On 2012-JAN-18, he said that any decision he would make would be done in a "deliberate" and "thoughtful" way. He told a reporter:
"The fact is this is a huge societal change that they’re talking about here and I think we need to do this in a very deliberate, thoughtful way and get the most input from the public we can before we overturn hundreds of years of societal, legal, and religious tradition."
This has led some commentator to speculate that he might take no action on the bill and allow it to become law by default.
NOM is asking its web site visitors to send Emails to Governor Christie urging him to continue discriminating against loving, committed same-sex couples in the state by vetoing the bill.
2012-JAN-20: State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D) outlines legislative agenda for 2012:
Before the editorial board of the Courier-Post newspaper, he said that his three top priorities are marriage equality, the minimum wage, and shared services. Referring to SSM, he said:
"It’s a civil rights issue and…the right thing to do."
He said that this time, he is not going to let religious groups influence legislators like it did during 2010. Sweeney abstained from voting at that time. He said:
"I made a big mistake. I apologized for it and I am going to fix it."
Courier-Post reporter Carol Comegno reported that Sweeney detects:
"... a 'mood changing'' in this country in favor of it with strong support from young people and even older Americans. A poll released this week showed 52 percent of the state’s registered voters would approve such a bill. In addition to civil rights, he said the lack of marriage equality is costing New Jersey because same sex couples are moving out of the state to New York where they have the right to marry."
Sweeney suggested that Governor Chris Christie (R) not sign the bill into law if he believes that marriage should be only between a man and a woman, but rather to do nothing and let the bill become law by default. 3
2012-JAN-20: Estimates of support in legislature for Bills S1 and A1:
Len Deo, the president of another conservative group the New Jersey Family Policy Council (NJPRC), said that the degree of support for the bills is not nearly what its supporters believe. He said:
"I don't believe that they will get enough votes. They'd have to move a lot of Republicans and from what I'm hearing right now we believe that they won't get the votes. They may able to get simple majorities but even that right now is based on anybody's best guess."
Steven Goldstein, chair and CEO of a pro-marriage equality group Garden State Equality, is unsure about the level of support. He said:
"Having lived through this once, where it didn't pass, if you told me that we had every member [of the Senate and Assembly] in support of the bill, I'd still be a neurotic mess. ... We don't count our matzo balls before they're cooked. So we're cautiously optimistic that we have enough votes to pass the bill to get it to the governor's desk. As each day passes, it seems that what was once a long shot in potentially overriding a gubernatorial veto becomes less of a long shot. We're very realistic."
"Thirty-five million Americans in six states and the District of Columbia now live in states with marriage equality. Marriage equality is no longer an experiment. It's civil unions that are the experiment because civil unions are failing because hospitals and insurance companies and [other public institutions] don't recognize civil unions. The law is no longer new."
Groups opposed to SSM take the opposite position: that civil unions are working fine. Len Deo said:
"In the state of New Jersey, when they passed the legislation, there was a remedy for civil union couples who felt that their civil union was not being treated properly, to file a complaint with the Civil Rights Commission. There have been, since 2007, a little ever 5,400 civil unions performed. Of those 5,400, 15 complaints have been filed and of those, 12 have been resolved.
The court has ruled couples can call their 'marriage' whatever they want and they get every single right heterosexual couples get. A great injustice is being done to the people of New Jersey. It's a big charade." 4,5
The LGBT community generally believes that they are missing what is perhaps the most important right associated with marriage: the right to call one's relationship a marriage. They often counter views like Deo's by asking whether how many opposite-sex couples would be willing to have their marriages replaced by civil unions. Separate and equal is always separate but never equal.
2012-JAN-24: The Senate Judiciary Committee approves SSM bill:
The Judiciary Committee passed bill S1 by a vote of 8 to 4. All of the Democrats voted in favor of the bill; all the Republicans voted against it. 6
The vote followed three hours of testimony. Dozens of people on both sides of the issue testified; each had three minutes to make their case.
According to The Advocate:
"Marriage equality advocates focused on the inadequacies of the current civil unions law, particularly in vulnerable situations such as hospital visitation or the death of a child. Opponents claimed that even with broad religious exemptions protecting their right not to solemnize same-sex weddings or provide facilities for their celebration, the bill would still threaten their religious freedom. ...
Moshe Bressler, an Orthodox Jew opposed to marriage equality, testified in a panel with the executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference. 'The road to hell is paved with religious exemptions,' he said. Bressler attempted to link marriage equality to a study that found half of gay couples in San Francisco engage in open relationships in 2010. 'Please kill this demon before it demonizes millions of New Jerseyans'." 7
As is normal in this era, when they refer to attacks on their religious freedom, they are actually referring to restrictions on their religious freedom to oppress and denigrate others. As currently written, the bill contains clauses that allow clergy to freely decide whether to marry same-sex couples with impunity. There is also protection for religious institutions who refuse to rent their church halls and other facilities to same-sex couples. They are free to exclude same-sex couples from marriage preparation classes, etc. The opponents cited above may be referring to wedding dress stores, wedding photographers, stores that make wedding cakes, and other companies working in the wedding field who might want to discriminate against same-sex couples and fear that they might be liable for prosecution under state human rights laws.
Matthew Cortina, "Claims of Support for NJ Gay Marriage Bill 'Overblown,' Says Family Group. However, Poll Shows More Than Half of State Residents Are in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage," Christian Post, 2012-JAN-20, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
Text of the "Marriage equality and religious exemption act," New Jersey Legislature, as introduced 2012-JAN-17, at: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/. This is a PDF file