N.J. gay-marriage bid clears second hurdle of the week
Written by staff and wire reports February 17, 2012
Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality (left) joyfully hugs Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), sponsor of the New Jersey marriage equality bill, after the bill passed in the state Senate on Feb. 16. Credit: Tony Kurdzuk , The Star-Ledger
as Gov. Chris Christie’s threat of a "swift" veto looms, gay-rights
activists basked in victory after the state Assembly voted Feb. 16 in favor of legalizing
same-gender marriage in New Jersey.
office did not immediately say when Christie would respond.
Jersey state Senate, which failed to pass a marriage equality bill two years
ago, had approved the measure by a 24-16 vote Feb. 13.
question, this is a historic day in the state of New Jersey," said
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex), who, along with Senate President
Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), made the measure a top priority.
Assembly tally of 42-33 included no Republican votes in favor. Two Democrats
from Cape May County — Nelson Albano and Matthew Milam — voted against the
measure as well. Five lawmakers did not vote.
Working with the gay-rights
organization Garden State Equality, UCC pastors had traveled to Trenton to
testify before the Senate and Assembly judicial committees Jan. 24 and Feb. 2.
“The action of the New Jersey legislature to pass the
marriage-equality bill is a testament to growing momentum turning the tide for
equality and justice,” said the Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, UCC executive for
health and wholeness advocacy. “I am deeply grateful for the many people of
faith, including leadership form the United Church of Christ, who have been an
important part of this struggle.”
The Rev. L.L. DuBreuil –– pastor of
Faith UCC in Union, N.J., and a board member of Garden State Equality www.GardenStateEquality.com –– said she was heartened to hear “hours and hours of stirring
testimony from our legislators. Many who have been longtime supporters talked
passionately about civil rights and the evolving understanding of the nature of
DuBreuil said she has presided
over many interfaith marriages. “Yet when a couple comes to me of the same
gender to be married, the state of New Jersey comes into my sanctuary and
requires me to discriminate,” she said. “Our love here on earth is a reflection
of God's inclusive love. Get the state out of my sanctuary and let me get on
with marrying couples in love.”
activists were joyous after the vote, vowing to fight to overturn Christie’s
expected veto. The challenge, however, is expected to be considerable.
Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), 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 for an override. He said it
had won nearly 10 Assembly votes in recent weeks.
Said DuBreuil, "The window to override a veto will include
some of the promised visits as all of us –– lesbian or gay or straight or
bisexual or transgender or questioning –– bring human faces and stories of
families to our elected officials."
the Feb. 16 debate leading up to the vote, several lawmakers, including Oliver,
said they initially opposed gay marriage or struggled with the decision due to
their religious beliefs.
Charles Mainor (D-Hudson) said he once believed voting yes would emotionally
harm children and force them into therapy. "I felt this way because I was
ignorant," he said. “And I was ignorant because I didn’t educate
Cleopatra Tucker (D-Essex), a deaconess in her church, also struggled. "In
my final hours," she said, “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
Christie says he prefers that the issue go before voters, Schuenemeyer said,
“These are fundamental rights and, as such, should never be up for a
popular vote. I urge Governor Christie to honor the equal dignity and
worth of same-gender loving couples by quickly signing the bill into law.”
marriage is legal in six states and the District of Columbia. A Washington
state law passed this week will take effect in June.