NJ Senate may override Gov. Chris Christie's same-sex marriage veto

1:42 PM, Jun 26, 2013   |    comments
NJ Gov. Chris Christie
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Trenton, NJ (APP) -- The New Jersey Senate could have an override vote on Gov. Chris Christie's veto of a marriage equality bill as early as Thursday, the Asbury Park Press has learned.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney has long indicated a preference to attaining a marriage equality law through the legislative process rather than through a referendum and is being urged by members of his caucus to trigger a vote immediately.

Sen. Barbara Buono, the Democratic nominee against Christie in this year's gubernatorial contest, said she has urged Sweeney to add an override attempt to the upper-house's Thursday voting agenda.

Buono said several senators who voted with Christie on the issue in the past have indicated that they would change their votes if the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, which is what occurred Wednesday.

Buono said she believes the required two-thirds of the 40 senators will vote for the override.

"I wouldn't ask (Sweeney) to post it unless I believed that,'' Buono said.

Sweeney spokesman Chris Donnelly said no decisions have been made about posting the bill.

"We are talking with all interested parties,'' he said.

Other Democratic legislators and advocates in New Jersey said the time is ripe to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

But not all agree on how to make that happen.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a Mercer County Democrat and one of two openly gay legislators in New Jersey, said in a statement that there are two avenues: Christie could reverse his stance and approve a bill allowing same-sex marriage or the Legislature could place a constitutional amendment before voters and allow them to decide.

"While New Jersey is still only one of two states in the Northeast without same-sex marriage, this landmark decision by the Supreme Court recognizes the rights and privileges of all loving, committed couples who currently have marriage licenses," Gusciora said. "Hopefully this decision will provide greater traction for New Jersey in acquiring the same equality."

Although 59 percent of New Jerseyans polled in a recent Rutgers-Eagleton survey said they would vote to legalize same-sex marriage, the Democratic leadership in the Legislature has remained firm on not placing the matter before voters. Instead, they have sought either a change of heart from Christie or an override of his veto.

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, is one of the legislators who has been most vocal on not placing the matter before voters, arguing that same-sex marriage is a civil right that is best dealt with by the Legislature or the courts. He placed his bet on the courts today.

"The DOMA ruling means that the New Jersey Supreme Court will soon allow gay marriage in the state," Lesniak said in a statement. "The U. S. Supreme Court's decision automatically makes New Jersey's Domestic Partnership Law invalid because domestic partnerships will not provide the same rights and protections as marriage under federal law."

Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said the state needs to embrace same-sex marriage.

"It is time to finally establish marriage equality here in New Jersey and for those who have worked to obstruct true equality to get out of the way," Sweeney said in a joint statement with Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver, D-Essex, tossed the ball in the Republicans' court.

"I would hope that this decision will make Gov. Christie and Republican members of our Legislature take a circumspect look at the many ways in which their denial of support has allowed discrimination to continue to flourish in our state and recognize that it's not too late to change this," Oliver said in a statement.

Most state Republicans, so far, have remained silent on the ruling, except for one of the GOP's candidates for a U.S. Senate seat.

"While I believe government should not be in the business of marriage, it is not the Supreme Court's responsibility to make that decision," said Steve Lonegan, a former mayor of Bogota. "Laws should be made by legislatures, not by unelected judges. To do so is a usurpation of our democratic tradition at the heart of this country's founding."

Christie was asked about the ruling at an appearance in Bayonne, but did not comment, according to a radio clip from WNYC.

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