As I earlier reported here on UTF, after a research committee reviewed New Jersey's law and concluded that gay and lesbian couples should have 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.
Sen. Loretta Weinberg listened to Garden State Equality's lobbying for marriage and has sponsored New Jersey's marriage equality bill which is expected to be voted on this November. In the House, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora is the prime sponsor of the "Civil Marriage and Religious Protection Act."
With incumbent Governor John Corzine a strong supporter, and who is currently running for re-election on a strong marriage equality platform, allies in the state legislature and polls showing increasing support amongst New Jersey residents, it's looking good for marriage.
And this scares the opposition.
At one point their strategy was to accuse judges of activism from the bench and demand the LGBT groups get legislation passed, but once the LGBT groups were successful at this, they now call for public referendums on gay and lesbian couples' right to marriage.
This is exactly the route they're taking in New Jersey.
New Jersey News Room reports that six Republican legislators and their conservative allies want a constitutional referendum on allowing gay marriage in New Jersey and oppose any effort to move measures approving it in the lame duck Legislature in November and December.
On Monday, they held a press conference which they state they want a public vote on the November 2010 ballot. (Watch video at NJN)
NJ.com reports that Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen) said Gov. Jon Corzine struck a deal with another prominent lawmaker to vote on it during a lame-duck session that follows Election Day. This way, if the governor loses, the Democrats can still get the bill passed before the Corzine leaves office in January.
"I can say I know that there was a conversation between the governor and a key chairman because I was in the room. After, not before the election, was their determination," said Cardinale.
Democratic State Committee Chairman Joseph Cryan balked at the accusation, calling it "perhaps the most ridiculous accusation in the gubernatorial race so far from the Republicans."
"The governor's on the record supporting fairness and equality for everyone," Cryan said. "In our state, there's no mystery to that."
"Thirty states, three-fifths of the United States, have voted to amend their state constitution to make marriage one man, one woman. And I sincerely believe that would happen here in New Jersey if the people had the right to vote," said Gregory Quinlan, Director of Government Affairs for New Jersey Family First.
"This is not like raising the sales tax one percent or lowering it one percent. This is a far deeper-reaching issue and it should be decided by the people," said Cardinale.
Gov. Corzine has already voiced his disapproval of a public vote, stating that decisions on marriage equality should be left to elected officials. The newest poll released today shows Corzine trailing in the race for governor.
Already, the Catholic Church of New Jersey has voiced opposition, as well as a conservative group organized by the New Jersey Family Policy called the Marriage Minutemen, who is already holding meetings in conservative churches.
"They have every right to seek a referendum," House's sponsor Gusciora said. "These are the same persons that in the 60's would have called for a referendum on laws to end discrimination. They are just against any civil rights for people, they have always been like that. If they are serious about protecting the sanctity of marriage, why not have a bill against divorce."
To get involved in New Jersey, go to the Garden State Equality website.