In New Jersey, Push for Gay Marriage Meets Election Concerns
Posted on January 4, 2009
Filed Under Uncategorized
NEW JERSEY has never appeared so close to — and yet so far from — enacting gay marriage.
Gov. Jon S. Corzine; Richard J. Codey, the State Senate president; and Joseph J. Roberts Jr., leader of the Democratic-controlled Assembly, have all recently stated publicly that gay marriage is an idea whose time has come. Echoing the sentiments of a state commission report released last month, some state officials said that civil unions — the closest thing to marriage available to gay couples in the state — were woefully inadequate and that the legalization of gay marriage in New Jersey was not a matter of “if” but “when.”
But with the governor and all 80 members of the Assembly up for re-election in November, most of the officials say the “when” may not be for some time.
The New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission, a 13-member panel convened to evaluate the impact of the state’s 2006 civil union law, in its final report last month, called on the state to legalize same-sex marriage after finding that civil unions did not result in equal treatment. Likening the prohibition against gay couples marrying to the racial segregation laws imposed upon black Americans, the commission said hospitals were reluctant to recognize civil unions when it came to visitation rights, employers did not always extend health benefits to both partners, and the children of such unions were stigmatized.
Massachusetts and Connecticut are currently the only states that allow gay couples to marry, and in both instances the issue was decided by the courts rather than the legislatures. California was in that category until November, when gay marriage was overturned by voters.
Mr. Goldstein says his organization has been lobbying to get a measure passed.
“We are very, very close,” he said. “Do I believe we have the votes yet? It depends on how you count them. Even under our very conservative vote counts, we’re very close.”
While the governor had asked state lawmakers to refrain from raising the issue during the presidential election, for fear that it would sidetrack voters, he is now encouraging lawmakers to seriously review the commission’s report.
“While this administration is focused squarely on the economic crisis for the foreseeable future, it’s clear that this issue of civil rights must be addressed sooner rather than later,” Mr. Corzine said in a statement.
The governor promised to sign marriage-equality legislation when it reaches his desk. The question is whether state lawmakers will present him with the opportunity. “Politics will play a role in whether it actually gets posted to a committee,” said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a Democrat from Princeton and the deputy majority leader, who sponsored a gay marriage bill. “With the Assembly up this November, there will be a lot of members unlikely to get involved with such a polarizing issue.”
See Push for Gay Marriage Meets Election Concerns
New York Times, United States
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