Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Jersey Gearing Up for Marriage Equality Struggle This Fall

After a research committee reviewed New Jersey's law and concluded that gay and lesbian couples should have a legally recognized relationships, the state Supreme Court ordered the legislature to come up with a law that would recognize these couples. With the decision in their hands, the legislature opted for civil unions in 2006.

However, after reports from couples in civil unions claiming that benefits are still being denied them, the push for marriage has increase in the Garden State. reports that Garden State Equality has lobbied for marriage, and the legislature is expected to vote on a marriage equality bill after November's elections.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who sponsors New Jersey's marriage equality bill, said the Supreme Court has "already said that same-sex partners are entitled to all the rights and responsibilities of marriage" -- and most lawmakers agree with it.

Current Governor Jon Corzine is also a major LGBT ally. He is currently running for re-election on a platform highlighting his support for marriage equality, representing it as a good and open-minded stance that residents should support him on through their vote. If a marriage equality bill were to make it to his desk, he would sign it.

Many New Jersey residents also support marriage equality. A poll back in April found that 42% supported marriage equality, a 6 point increase since civil unions went into effect.

Yet opposition is growing as well. writes:
The Marriage Minutemen, a group organized by the New Jersey Family Policy Council, is holding meetings in conservative churches, mostly in legislative districts where lawmakers are believed to be on the fence on the issue, to tell volunteers how they can help."

Volunteers at the meeting were given specific talking points -- for instance, to say that a state commission that recommended earlier this year that gay marriage be legal was biased. And they heard that the gay-rights advocates also are pressing lawmakers on the issue.

Much of the message was to tell the volunteers they'd have better luck if they talked about policy rather than morality.

"We're not here to take away anybody's rights and we're not here to stand against anything," Len Deo, president of the family policy council. "We're here to stand for something, and that is marriage."
The Star Ledger is reporting that the state's Catholic bishops are also joining the opposition, with prepared sermons for this weekend's masses called "The Call to Marriage" to be read from the pulpit throughout the state.

"We must protect and promote marriage," says the "The Call to Marriage." "God himself is the author of marriage. Marriage as union of man and woman existed long before any nation, religion, or law was established ... Governments, therefore, have a duty to reinforce and protect this permanent institution and to pass it on to future generations, rather than attempt to redefine it arbitrarily for transitory political or social reasons."

The bishops will strike a conciliatory tone by saying "we must pledge our support to all family members."

We, the LGBT population, have a lot of work on our hands. We have Maine to protect from the opposition hoping to strip marriage rights away this November, then New Jersey to press for marriage after the election, and California, where the LGBT population there hope to return to the ballot in 2010 or 2012.

ACTION: If you want to help New Jersey, go to Garden State Equality's website and find out how you can get involved!

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