Kissing Brides, Heather Jensen and Amy Quinn, an Asbury Park Councilwoman, celebrate their marriage shortly after midnight on October 21. facebook photo
Assembly Minority Leader Lou Greenwald told The Star Ledger that Assembly Democrats are not likely to pass legislation that would protect clergy and religious organizations from being forced to perform same sex marriages and accommodate the ceremonies.
What’s less clear is what the Legislature is going to do about gay marriage. Right now, gay couples can get married in New Jersey. But that right hangs on a decision made at the Superior Court level, since the state Supreme Court never decided the case.
Lawmakers could try to override Christie’s 2012 veto of gay marriage legislation or write a new bill to encode it into law. Or they could do nothing — an option they say is looking more attractive.
Greenwald said the Assembly is leaning against an override because, even if they cobbled together the two-thirds majority they’d need to pull it off, a religious exemption provision that was inserted into the bill to win Republican support could actually restrict rights gay couples have under the court ruling.
“The answer probably is no,” Greenwald said of the override. “Right now in New Jersey, the opinion seems to be that we have the strongest marriage equality laws in the country.”
Early last year the New Jersey Legislature passed the Marriage Equality and Religious Exceptions Act which, if it had been signed by Governor Chris Christie, would have granted same sex couples the right to marry and recognized the First Amendment Right of clergy and religious societies, organizations and institutions not to solemnize gay marriage or provide space, goods, services, advantages or privileges for gay marriage ceremonies. The Act would have provided immunity from civil law suits against religious organizations that refused to accommodate gay marriages.
Photo credit: Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association
Neptune Township’s beachfront and boardwalk in the Ocean Grove section of the Township might not get the estimated $3 million in FEMA funding needed to rebuild because the property is owned by the private non-profit and religious Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA), according to an article by freelance journalist Caren Chesler published at NJSpotLight.
Neptune Township Committee Member and Ocean Grove business owner Randy Bishop, as well as Michael Bascom, the Township’s CFO are working with OGCMA to pursuade FEMA to pay for the repairs on the stretch of beach that connects the regional shoreline from Asbury Park south to Spring Lake.
In a press release posted on OGCMA’s website, President Dr. Dale C. Whilden said, “The Camp Meeting is fully committed to restoring Ocean Grove’s beautiful beachfront, a keystone of our community as well as a protection from ocean storms, and we’re on track to implement a comprehensive beach and boardwalk restoration plan. With God’s blessing and the assistance of our local, state and federal officials, as well as support from individuals and organizations, our beach will open on Memorial Day weekend.”
NJ Supreme Court is end game for Same Sex Marriage Advocates
As expected, the New Jersey Assembly passed the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act today. The vote was 42-33. No Republican voted for the bill. Two Cape May County Democrats, Nelson Albano and Matthew Milam voted NO, according to NJ.com
The bill passed the Senate last week and now heads to Governor Chris Christie for his expected veto.
Christie has called for the issue to be put to referendum this fall. Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman has proposed legislation authorizing the referendum.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney has said the referendum legislation will not make it to the Senate floor for a vote.
Christie has said the Democrats handling of the matter is political theater. He told Poltickernj,
“If they don’t put it on the ballot, you’ll know the whole thing was political theater,” Christie said. “I trust the people.”
However, same sex marrige advocates seem to think that legislative passage of the bill will make a difference in their efforts to get the New Jersey Supreme Court to impose same sex marriage in New Jersey regardless of Christie’s veto or whether or not there is a referendum.
In an email to his membership, Steven Goldstein, CEO of Garden State Equality, said,
… Meanwhile, Garden State Equality continues its lawsuit with Lambda Legal –
where courts will now see the legislative intent of marriage equality…
… “Pursuing all roads to justice, Garden State Equality and seven-same sex couples will continue our lawsuit for marriage equality, where we are represented by Lambda Legal and the nationally renowned Gibbons law firm. With this victory, the courts will see the legislature’s clear intent to replace the state’s failed civil union law with marriage equality.”
Same sex marriage will not become law in New Jersey this year by way of legislation or referendum.
Governor Chris Christie assured the Marriage Equality and Religious Excemption Act will not become law when he announced that he will veto it. He was always going to veto it. Yet, his call to put the question on the ballot for the voters to decide assured that it will not pass in the legislature with a veto proof majority, if it passes at all. Legislators, from both parties who are in difficult positions personally and politically over the issue now have cover not to vote to pass the bill.
Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Shelia Oliver assured the marriage equality question will not be on the ballot as a State constitutional amendment this fall. A constitutional amendment requires 60% approval in the legislature before it goes to the people in a referendum. Sweeney and Oliver have both said that they will not even allow the referendum question come before their chambers for a vote. They say its a civil rights issue that should not be subject to the whims of the majority. David Duke, the Klan and the Jim Crow south have been invoked in the heated rhetoric in response to Christie’s call for a referendum.
All the noble rhetoric on this issue, from both sides, is political theatrics. Presidential and gubernatorial political theatrics. It has been since 2008.
Governor Corzine asked the gay community not to push for marriage equality during the presidential election year of 2008 or the gubernatorial election year of 2009. Corzine couldn’t get it gay marriage passed in the lame duck legislative session of 2009. Had Corzine been reelected, a same sex marriage bill, without protections for the religious community included in the current bill, likely would have become law early in 2010.
Despite their holier-than-though rhetoric about civil rights, and despite Quinnipiac’s poll showing that a majority New Jersey voters favor same sex marriage, Sweeney and Oliver really oppose putting the question on the ballot this fall because they fear it will bring out conservative voters in large margins. They fear that New Jersey’s 14 electoral votes could be at stake and that the congressional delegation could be at risk. They remember what happened in California (of all places) and Ohio when gay marriage was on the ballot.
Christie remembers California and Ohio too. Once again the great compromiser as outmaneuvered the Democrats and made Steve Sweeney curse. He knows that Sweeney and Oliver would never let the question on the ballot, this year of all years. Yet by calling for a referendum, he has killed the legislation’s chances of passing with a veto proof majority, if at all.
It’s back to court, and to the confirmation hearings for Chrisite’s nominees for the State Supreme Court, for Steve Goldstein and Garden State Equality.
Or, if what the gay community really wants if equal rights and benefits, rather than changing the definition of marriage, Goldstein and GSE could put their considerable skill into making the civil union law work. Quinnipiac says 69% of New Jersey voters support the same sex civil union law. The problem has been that Goldstein and GSE don’t support it. That will be the subject of a follow up post.
The Marriage Equality and Religious Exceptions Act passed the New Jersey Senate Judiciary committee this afternoon on a partisan 8-4 vote. Democrats Nicholas Scutari, Nia Gill, Nellie Pou, Paul Sarlo, Brain Stack, Loretta Weinberg, and Joe Vitale voted for the bill. Republicans Kip Bateman, Michael Doherty, Joe Kyrillos and Kevin O’Toole voted no.
While at a Town Hall meeting in Bridgewater, Governor Chris Christie called for putting the question on the ballot in November. Back in Trenton, Senate President Stephen Sweeney quickly rejected Christie’s call for a referendum, calling it a civil rights issue that should be decided by the legislature, not the people.
Former Governor Jon Corzine’s Public Advocate, Richard Chen, said that Women’s Suffrage was on the New Jersey ballot in 1915 and was defeated, passing only in Ocean County.