Friday, February 17, 2012

Gay marriage passed in NJ, awaits veto by Christie

Photo caption: Assembly members Reed Gusciora and Bonnie Watson Coleman celebrated the passage of a same-sex-marriage bill yesterday.

The New York Times reports: The New Jersey Assembly approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage yesterday, setting up a confrontation with Gov. Chris Christie, who promised a swift veto and defied the Legislature to put the issue before voters instead.

In two hours of passionate debate, Democrats supporting the measure urged their colleagues to make history, comparing the fight for legalization of same-sex marriage to battles for women’s suffrage and against racism.

“We can make a giant leap forward today in the fight against one of the last legalized barriers to equal rights,” said Sheila Y. Oliver, the Assembly speaker, whose voice broke at several points as she exhorted her colleagues to support the bill.

The State Senate passed a similar bill on Monday; the Assembly vote was the first time the Legislature united in endorsing same-sex marriage.

And the vote, passing 42 to 33, underscored how much opinion has shifted since two years ago, when the Senate rejected a similar bill. New York State legalized same-sex marriage last year, and this month Washington State did so. The bill passed yesterday would make New Jersey the eighth state that allows gay and lesbian couples to marry.

But advocates for the bill in New Jersey face a new fight: trying to win enough votes to override the governor’s expected veto.

Mr. Christie is a rising star in the Republican Party, in which any politician with national ambitions must consider social conservatives who oppose same-sex marriage. After New Jersey Democrats, who control the Legislature, said they would make same-sex marriage a top priority this year, the governor proposed putting the issue to voters in a referendum in November.

Yesterday, Mr. Christie declared the Legislature’s action merely “an exercise in theater.”

“I’ve given them an alternative,” said Mr. Christie, who spent the day holding a news conference to announce that WrestleMania was coming to MetLife Stadium in 2013 and appearing at a fund-raiser for a Republican running for the United States Senate. “Put it on the ballot and let the people decide.”

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