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18 February 2012

FollowUp 9: NJ Democrats Call for Marriage Equality

It was a very busy week.  As I noted previously, on Monday 13 February the New Jersey Senate passed marriage equality by a vote of 24 - 16.  That was good but it would take 27 votes to override a veto.  Then on Thursday 16 February the New Jersey Assembly passed marriage equality by a vote of 42 - 33.  As with the NJ Senate, this was good but it would take 54 votes to override a veto.  The bill was delivered to Governor Chris Christie Friday morning.  The veto was signed the same afternoon.

There are a few interesting twists that accompanied the veto.  First, there are attached protections for LGBTQ citizens of New Jersey, from the Washington Blade:
Christie’s veto of the bill was conditional. It included the creation of what he called an ombudsman for civil unions that he said would “carry on New Jersey’s strong tradition of tolerance and fairness.”
Christie maintained in his statement that he’s been “adamant” that same-sex couples in civil unions, which are legal in New Jersey, deserves the same rights and benefits as married couples.
“Discrimination should not be tolerated and any complaint alleging a violation of a citizen’s right should be investigated and, if appropriate, remedied,” Christie said.
The same article also noted the ongoing litigation for marriage equality by Lambda Legal of New Jersey.
Litigation is also underway in New Jersey state courts to win marriage rights for couples in New Jersey. In June, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit arguing that barring same-sex couples from marriage and relegating them to civil union status violates the New Jersey Constitution.
Hayley Gorenberg, Lambda’s deputy legal director, said her organization is “disappointed” with Christie, but will keep on the fight to win marriage equality with the tools at hand.
“We’ll continue to make our case for equality with our plaintiffs in court,” Gorenberg said. “We also stand by our colleagues at Garden State Equality, working to gain support for a veto override in the legislature.”
In November, Lambda defeated defendants’ attempt to dismiss the case, and the judge ruled it could proceed. A trial is expected early in 2013.
From a press release November 2011, Lambda Legal:
In 2002, Lambda Legal filed a historic case, Lewis v. Harris, seeking marriage equality on behalf of seven New Jersey couples. The case reached the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2006. The high court ruled unanimously that same-sex couples must be provided all the benefits and responsibilities of marriage, although it declined at that time to mandate that marriage was specifically required, and gave the state legislature 180 days to provide equality. The legislature hastily passed a civil union law in December 2006, and began issuing civil union licenses to lesbian and gay couples in February 2007.
In December 2008 the Civil Union Review Commission, appointed by the legislature pursuant to the Civil Union Act itself, issued its unanimous report documenting how civil unions fall short of providing the court-mandated equality for same-sex couples. In January 2010, days before the legislative session ended, the New Jersey Senate voted on and failed to pass a marriage equality law. On March 18, 2010, Lambda Legal filed a motion in aid of litigants' rights asking the New Jersey Supreme Court to intercede and order marriage to secure compliance with its original mandate of equality for the Lewis v. Harris plaintiffs, but in July 2010, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied the motion, requiring further proceedings to develop a record in Superior Court.
Given the steep challenge of convincing legislators to change their votes, my guess is that the lawsuit has a greater chance of resulting in marriage equality than the legislature has of overriding Governor Christie's veto.  Either way, New Jersey marriages of same gender couples will be no more real than those in Massachusetts and five other states until the Federal government is no longer under DOMA and gay couples are treated as equal citizens.

9 January 2012, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.

25 January 2012, FollowUp 1.

26 January 2012, FollowUp 2.

28 January 2012, FollowUp 3.

30 January 2012, FollowUp 4.

31 January 2012, FollowUp 5.

3 February 2012, FollowUp 6.

10 February 2012, FollowUp 7.

13 February 2012, FollowUp 8.

21 February 2012, FollowUp 10.

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