Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Jersey Heats Up As Over 250 Rally at the Capitol Monday to Push For Marriage Equality Bill Vote

Yesterday, I reported from the news I received on the ground that hundreds of marriage equality supporters rallied at Statehouse in New Jersey's capital of Trenton.

The rally, organized by the state's largest LGBT advocacy group Garden State Equality, had over 250 people reports the NJ Politiker.

Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality took a megaphone and proclaimed to the crowd, "If the Democrats don't enact marriage equality now, after years of telling us to wait, it will cause a huge schism between the state Democratic party and its entire progressive base," he added. "And it could change the political landscape of New Jersey permanently."

This is a great video from Jay Lassiter covering yesterday's rally.

The intent of the rally was to encourage state Democrats to pass marriage equality legislation so that pro-LGBT Gov. Jon Corzine can sign the bill before he leaves office in January. Governor-elect Chris Christie is adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage and has promised to veto the bill if it comes to him. His election has discouraged lawmakers from passing it as well as the passing of Question 1 in Maine. However, a recent poll showed a small majority of New Jersey resident support marriage rights for their LGBT fellow citizens.

However, both Sen. Paul Sarlo who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee and current Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney, who was just elected Senate President by his peers Monday, both oppose taking up the marriage bill at this time. Yet bill co-sponsor Sen. Loretta Weinberg is still hopeful.

She "insisted the gay marriage bill isn't dead," reports the Asbury Park Press. "She said discussions would continue, tamping down persistent chatter that the measure lacks support to pass. Legislative leaders have said they won't post the bill for a vote unless it has at least 21 votes in the Senate and 41 in the Assembly."

The New York Times reported about Monday:
But Senate Democrats met to discuss the measure on Monday and — despite intense lobbying from a coalition of gay-rights advocates and other groups — did not schedule it for a vote, because they appeared unable to muster the 21 votes needed to pass it. A few Republicans have said they may support the bill, but several of the 23 Democrats have expressed reservations about it. Senator Loretta Weinberg, a sponsor of the bill, who spent the fall campaigning as Mr. Corzine’s running mate, said that despite her colleagues’ post-election apprehensions, she believed that lawmakers would make New Jersey the latest state to legalize gay marriage.

“This is an issue of fairness,” she said. “It’s not like we’re going to miss out on a chance to fix the economy during the lame-duck session because we’re spending a couple of hours debating this. It is a matter of civil rights.”
Though civil unions are legal in New Jersey, a state-commissioned study showed that the institution is not adequate and that those in unions are not treated equally to married couples. It was this report that sparked the marriage bill creation.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has already been airing radio ads against the legislation but have just released a new one Monday with $500,000 spent to blast the state with it, along with direct mailers, telephone calling and online advertising. (H/T Good As You)

Jeremy at Good As You says it best, "So disgustingly misleading. We're not talking about days of debate and scores of resources. In a state where the high court has already demanded equality, and where the legislatively-implemented civil unions have failed to live up to that promise, the debate over whether or not to bump up the C.U. system to full equality should be a no-brainer."

You would think.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church leadership organized their Garden State priests to simultaneously give the same homily against marriage equality. No doubt the $2 million they have set aside to fight LGBT citizens' right to marriage will be used in New Jersey.

Garden State Equality has fought back with sharp ads of their own which caused a stir the day after Question 1 passed in Maine.

ACTION: Get involved. Go to Garden State Equality to find out how.

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