New Jersey’s first openly gay lawmaker, who previously opposed putting gay marriage to referendum, has decided that he now endorses putting the decision to ballot.

Following Maryland, Maine and Washington’s legalisation of same-sex marriage in November, 52-year old Assemblyman, Reed Gusciora, has had a change of heart – saying: “at this point we have no other choice.”
He claims Republican Gov. Chris Christie is likely to block any efforts that come through the State House.

However, Freedom to Marry slated his decision, saying: “it’s no more a good idea to put these couples’ freedom to marry up to a majority vote than it was to put a woman’s right up to vote,” when it was defeated in 1915. Director Evan Wolfson added that “[it’s a] very expensive, difficult, divisive process that no state should wish upon itself.”

Steven Goldstein, chair of the Garden State Equality, also expressed his concerns over Gusciora’s rushed turn-around decision: “I think he is a year too early.”

But Gusciora argues “Gay groups have been saying that the majority of voters in New Jersey favor marriage equality. Indeed, let’s make that demonstration.” Worryingly, the anti-gay marriage executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, Brian Brown, agrees with putting it to ballot: “A lot of people are tired of this grandstanding. If you want to keep making this an issue, let the people vote on it.”

Gusciora’s u-turn on the ballot comes less than a year after gay marriage opponent Christie proposed the referendum, which provoked the gay lawmaker to compare Republic Christie to segregationists of earlier decades.

In order to overturn Christie’s veto of the Legislature-approved same-sex marriage bill, at least 14 lawmakers would need to be persuaded by January 2014. A two-thirds majority in both houses is required to achieve Gusciora’s hopeful outcome.

New Jersey became the of the first US states to grant legal status to gay couples when it authorised civil unions in 2006, but same-sex marriage still has no legal standing. In February 2012, state Legislature passed a law to allow gay marriage, but it was vetoed by Christie.