Christie Conditionally Vetos Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act

Reiterates his call for the issue to be decided by the people via referendum

Calls for the establishment of an Ombudsman to enforce the Civil Union Law

Governor Chris Christie sent S-1, the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act, back to the legislature this afternoon with his conditional veto.

Christie issued the following statement regarding his action:

“Today, I am adhering to what I’ve said since this bill was first introduced – an issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide. I continue to encourage the Legislature to trust the people of New Jersey and seek their input by allowing our citizens to vote on a question that represents a profoundly significant societal change. This is the only path to amend our State Constitution and the best way to resolve the issue of same-sex marriage in our state.

 “I have been just as adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples – as well as the strict enforcement of those rights and benefits. Discrimination should not be tolerated and any complaint alleging a violation of a citizen’s right should be investigated and, if appropriate, remedied. To that end, I include in my conditional veto the creation of a strong Ombudsman for Civil Unions to carry on New Jersey’s strong tradition of tolerance and fairness. The Ombudsman will be charged with increasing awareness of the law regarding civil unions, will provide a clear point of contact for those who have questions or concerns and will be required to report any evidence of the law being violated. In this way, we can ensure equal treatment under the law.”

A copy of the Conditional Veto can be found here.

Posted: February 17th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Christie, Marriage Equality, Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Garden State Equality To Hold Membership Appreciation And Fund Raising Event in Red Bank


THIS SUNDAY, February 19th from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Garden State Equality will hold a free wine-and-cheese open house in centrally located Red Bank for all our members, including you, to show you our love and appreciation.  No RSVP necessary, and please bring whomever you’d like.

Location: Hip and Humble Home, 58 Broad Street, Red Bank. 

On Sunday, this incredibly cool home furnishings store will donate 25 percent of your purchases to Garden State Equality’s campaign to override Governor Christie’s veto of the marriage equality bill.

212 LGBT civil rights laws at the state, county and local levels in New Jersey our founding in 2004 — and now we’re one of only three states in American history to pass a marriage equality bill under a Governor hostile to marriage equality.  Those are your achievements, dear members.  We thank you with all our hearts, and we hope to see you Sunday.

Posted: February 17th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Marriage Equality | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Have Civil Unions Worked?

Perhaps Not. Perhaps So. 

That is not the question the Assembly should be considering when deciding the fate of the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act

The heart of the argument for same sex marriage advocates is that civil unions have not worked in establishing the rights and benefits that married couples enjoy to same sex committed couples, as the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered.

The anecdotal evidence that the gay community has provided to “prove” that civil unions don’t work has been compelling enough to cause some state legislators to change their position on same sex marriage since the issue was voted on in the Senate in 2006.   Senator Shirley Turner voted YES for the marriage equality bill yesterday.  She told Politickernj,

“I was wrestling with this,” said Turner, who was the 24th”aye” vote. “I felt we could accomplish it with civil unions but from what I have been hearing from gays and lesbians, they have been telling me it was not working. They were not being treated as equals, and I don’t want anyone being treated unequally.”

Assemblyman Peter Barnes, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is a Catholic who was previously opposed to same sex marriage.  On February 2 he voted with his committee, 5-2, to move the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act to the full Assembly. 

Barnes said it was the job of legislators to “tackle the difficult issues, whether we agree or disagree,” and his Catholic faith had put him at odds with this issue.  Barnes told Politickernj,

“As a Catholic, as  I really struggled with this over the past (few) years,” he said. “Tradition has not always been good, and it has not always been fair. Tradition can’t control our vote.”

“I will absolutely be voting for this out of committee today, and I am absolutely leaning in favor of voting for this on the floor,” Barnes said. “The civil union is not working…I don’t think reasonable minds can even disagree on that.”

“The civil union is not working….I don’t think reasonable minds can even disagree on that.”

A reasoning mind, which is very different from a reasonable would want more than heart wrenching stories and anecdotes from advocates before concluding that “the civil union is not working.”

One could easily make a reasonable argument that the civil union has worked.  There were 5,790 civil unions registered from 2007 through 2011 and less than 20 civil rights complaints.  If judged only by those statistics, a reasonable mind would conclude that civil unions have worked extraordinarily well. 

But that is a reasonable conclusion, not a reasoning conclusion.

Patrick Murray, the Monmouth University pollster, blogged:

The New Jersey Supreme Court declared that the state must provide and protect identical legal rights for civilly joined same sex couples as it does for married heterosexual couples. Same sex marriage advocates argue this hasn’t happened in practice under the state’s civil union law.  They have provided witnesses who give compelling stories of instances when their rights were denied.  Opponents have argued these are isolated instances that can be corrected with improvements to existing law.

The researcher in me says there is a pretty easy way to determine this.  Take a random sample of same sex civil union couples and a matched sample of heterosexual couples married at the same time and survey them.  If the former group has had significantly more problems with health insurance, parental rights, having next of kin rights honored, etc. – then the argument that civil unions don’t meet the Court’s mandate would be strong.  If not, perhaps the incidents are isolated and modifications to the current bill are all that is needed.  This is something that should be examined honestly by our three governmental branches.

Murray’s methodology would bring far more reasoning to the debate than there has been to date.   Such a study would be examined honestly by our three governmental branches, if they were serious about the issue and not playing politics.  If Murray or another pollster could construct a poll that tested the veracity of the respondents while collecting the data, such a study would be very useful.

Yet, such a study would not resolve the issue. 

If the study concluded that civil unions are working, gay marriage advocates would emphasize other arguments, “separate but equal” perhaps, in their fight to have their relationships called marriages.

If the study concluded that civil unions are not working, the reasonable approach, the approach that gay marriage advocates are pushing and reasonable minds are falling for, would be to call the relationships marriages. 

A reasoning approach, assuming the objective is equal rights and benefits, would be to study why civil unions haven’t worked.  Assuming that the relationships will not continue to suffer the inequities conveyed in the anecdotal stories the legislative committees have relied upon as evidence that civil unions are not working is not reasonable or reasoning.  Changing the name of the relationships from civil unions to marriages will not be a panacea.

Civil unions were a completely new distinction in 2007.  Employers, hospitals and others who have “caused” the inequities or inconveniences that same sex couples have suffered did not know what civil unions were.  The forms that triage nurses used to admit patients into hospitals and the human resource personnel used to process employees did not have a box to check that said “civil union.”   There was one heart wrenching story of a New York doctor saying “What the heck is that?” to a partner of a trauma patient explaining his relationship as next of kin.  The doctor didn’t buy or understand that the partner was next of kin to his patient and the patient’s sister had to travel from Delaware to authorize “emergency” treatment.  There will likely be other doctors who say “What the heck?” when a partner says “I’m his husband” when arguing that he is authorized to approve treatment. 

Same sex couples argue that they shouldn’t have to carry official paperwork that explains and proves their relationship anymore than married couples should have to.  All it will take is one multi-million dollar suit involving a partner who lies about martial status to authorize treatment that goes wrong before hospitals require all couples, gay or straight, to produce there relationship certificates before treating incapacitated patients.

“Why haven’t civil unions worked?” if they haven’t, is both a reasonable and reasoning question that should be asked if the objective of the Legislature is to ensure that same sex couples have equal rights.   

There has been no effective method to ensure that civil unions work. 

Garden State Equality, the gay advocacy group leading the way to same sex marriage has not wanted civil unions to work.  They encourage their members to report discrimination to on their website.  They don’t encourage civil rights complaints to the authorities.   That explains why there is so much anecdotal evidence that civil unions don’t work and so few complaints.

Steve Goldstein, CEO of Garden State Equality, was Vice Chairman of the Civil Union Review Commission that concluded in 2008, one year after the civil union law became effective, that civil unions don’t work.  Goldstein’s participation on the commission was clearly a conflict, especially in light of his work to ensure that civil unions not work by using stories of discrimination to advance his same sex marriage agenda and by encouraging his members to report discrimination to Garden State Equality rather than the Division of Civil Rights.

The question for legislators in the Assembly considering the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act should not be “Have civil unions worked?”   Despite the reasonable evidence that they have worked—so few complaints with the Civil Right Division—there will be much work to do to ensure the civil rights of same sex couples even if their relationships are called marriages.

The question before members of the Assembly should be “What is marriage?”

Posted: February 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: marriage, Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

Why the push for same sex marriage now?

In a widely published OpEd piece, Rob Eichmann, the GOP State Committeeman from Gloucester County, questioned why the the State Legislature’s Democratic leadership has made gay marriage their top priority of the year.

Assembly Minority Conference Leader Dave Rible says the Democrats putting the issue on the front burner is a “slap in the face to the guy on the unemployment line.”

Both men have a point. 

Garden State Equality, the gay rights organization behind the push for same sex marriage, boasts of 86,000 members on its website.   That makes them, they say, the largest civil rights organization in the state.

That 86,000 number is questionable. 

Steve Goldstein, Chair and CEO of the GSE, told MMM that they consider any person who takes two affirmative actions for equality to be a member.  How they track that, he wouldn’t say.   I’m pretty sure they consider me a member.  Goldstein was aware that I signed up for their email list this week.  I told him that I noticed that shortly after I signed up that the the number changed from 85,000 to 86,000.  “I promise you, Art, we’re not counting you as 1,000 members.”

Goldstein finally acknowledged, sort of, that the membership claim is based upon a combination of their email list of 70,000 plus the 17,200 facebook friends they have, less a fudge factor to eliminate overlaps. Given that there is a facebook plug in on the GSE page, the fudge factor should probably be more than 1,200.

Even if GSE’s membership numbers were accurate, they would be representing less that 1% of New Jersey’s population.

The number of same sex couples who have committed to each other in the form of civil unions is a more reliable indicator of just how big this “civil rights” problem is.

According to Daniel Emmer, spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, 5,790 couples have been joined in civil unions since 2007 when the legislation designating the unions become effective.  That’s 11,580 people, statewide, that this issue impacts directly, if we generously assume that none of those unions have been dissolved by divorce.  Do they call it divorce?

One might conclude that Goldstein’s political skills are remarkable.  He has managed to make his small, be it 11,580 or 86,000 people, constituency’s concern the top priority of our state government during a time when our economy is anemic, municipal governments are making significant changes to balance their budgets and our urban schools are not educating their students.  Unemployment and foreclosures are not our top priority. Another generation of minority students are not getting educated, and Steve Goldstein has managed to make same sex marriage the most important issue of the State Legislature.

Or has he?

Goldstein has been played by the Democrats before.  Jon Corzine, while he was governor got Goldstein to agree to back off the same sex marriage issue during the 2008 presidential election cycle and the 2009 gubernatiorial election cycle.  Corzine made passionate speeches before gay audiences about how important their rights were.  He was blowing smoke.

Are the Democratic leaders of the legislature playing Goldstein again?   I think they are.   

The Democrats and their special interest donors want nothing to do with Governor Christie’s agenda for this year.  They want to raise taxes, not lower them.  They don’t want to reform education.  They don’t want to reform the civil service system so that municipalities can lower their costs and taxes.

The Democrats don’t want Christie to be an effective spokesman for Mitt Romney, especially if Romney wins the GOP presidential nomination.

That’s what this is about for the Democratic leadership. Avoiding Christie’s agenda and changing the public conversation.  It’s not about civil rights and benefits for Goldstein’s small constituency.

Whether or not it’s really about civil rights for Goldstein and GSE is another question which will be the subject of a future post.

Posted: January 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Marriage Equality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 78 Comments »

Does NJ Support Gay Marriage? It Depends

By Patrick Murray

A new PPP poll shows that a clear majority of New Jersey voters oppose gay marriage.

“Hang on a minute,” you say.  “All the media reports I saw on that poll say that New Jersey supports gay marriage.  Are you off your rocker, Murray?”

No, I’m not.  I just read the entire press release sent out by the pollster.  I found information in the very first paragraph that could lead a reasonable person – or at least an astute reporter – to conclude that this poll shows that most New Jerseyans do not support the recognition of gay marriage.

Here’s why.  The poll asked two questions.  The first question asked simply if “same-sex marriage should be legal or illegal?”  And being a basically fair-minded lot, more New Jersey poll participants sided with making it legal by a not overly wide 47% to 42% margin.

However, the pollster followed that with a different question – one more reflective of the reality that exists in New Jersey right now.  If the choice was between gay marriage, civil unions and no recognition at all, the public evenly splits between gay marriage (41%) and civil unions (40%).

If you add the group who choose civil unions to the 17% of those polled who oppose any kind of legal standing for same sex couples, you arrive at a sizable 57% who oppose gay marriage when civil unions are an option, as they are in New Jersey.

To its credit, the polling firm, Public Policy Polling, not only asked both questions butreported the results for both in the first paragraph of their press release.  However, they presented this information under a headline claiming there is unequivocal public support for gay marriage in New Jersey.  And they semantically underplayed the apparent contradiction in the two questions’ results. 

 Hmmm, I wonder if this Democratic polling firm may have an agenda?  Fair enough.  They did clearly show all the results of their poll, after all. 

The real problem is that the media blithely went along with the storyline fed to them by the polling firm – even when contradictory evidence was put right in front of their eyes. See here, here (with a blatantly inaccurate headline claiming “even Republicans support same-sex marriage”), here (which bizarrely interprets 41% as a “majority” – no wonder we’re falling behind the rest of the world in math), and here.  [Note that the text of at least one of these online articles – although not the headline – has been modified after I contacted reporters about this.]

Usually when a poll has contradictory information or the pollster has an agenda, a critical observer really has to do some work to uncover the red flags.  That means reading deeply into the background information that a pollster is willing to provide, as one New Jersey columnist did recently (see the last two paragraphs).  Many times you don’t even get this information to review (in which case, don’t report the poll at all!)

For this poll on gay marriage, though, the conflicting information was presented with a flashing neon sign.  Yet, no reporter bothered to say, “How would I report these results if all I had was the question results without the pollster’s interpretation?”  If they had, I bet the headlines would have been less clear-cut about where the public stands on this issue.

And that would have reflected the reality that public opinion on gay marriage is not clear-cut.  As I wrote over a year ago, nearly a decade of polling on this subject in New Jersey and elsewhere shows that opinion on this issue is malleable.  The current poll underscores this fact.

When Democrats in the poll were asked the up or down marriage question, 64% supported it.  And when they were presented with the civil union option, a full 59% stood by their original position.  Republicans were similarly steadfast – only 23% supported same sex marriage in the limited option question and a similar 20% said the same when civil unions were added to the equation (although it’s worth noting that most Republicans do in fact support civil unions).

Independents, on the other hand, were swayed by the context of the question.  On the straight up or down marriage question they divided 46% for to 36% against.  But when civil unions were given as an option, support for same sex marriage declined by a sizable 13 points to just 33%.

Bottom line:  This poll provides clear evidence of the ‘softness” in public opinion on gay marriage in New Jersey.  About 4-in-10 are solidly for it and 4-in-10 are solidly against it, but the remainder are liable to change their opinion.  And with this changeable group rests the majority.  Therefore, as the public debate on this issue resumes, public opinion will continue to shift.

There.  that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Posted: August 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Marriage Equality, Patrick Murray | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

1st Same Sex Marriages in NY

Photo credit: NJ.com

Photo credit: NJ.com

Phyllis Siegal, 76, standing, and Connie Kopelov, 84, were the first of over 800 same sex couples married in Manhattan yesterday, the first day that same-sex marriages were sanctioned in New York, according to multiple news reports.   The couple has been together for 23 years.

New York is issuing marriage licenses and performing ceremonies for couples who do not reside in the state, including states like New Jersey that do not recognise same sex marriages.   Does that mean the couples are married when they are in New York but unmarried when they are in New Jersey?

Posted: July 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Marriage Equality | Tags: | 6 Comments »

11th District Democrats Making Marriage Equality A General Election Issue

By Art Gallagher

The 11th district Democratic team of Ray Santiago for Senate, Marilyn Schlossbach and Vin Gopal for Assembly are planning on making marriage equality a key plank of their general election platform.

According to the “Our Plan”  page on their website, the candidates “strongly support” full marriage equality for all Americans.  They also plan to create more jobs in the 11th district and protect the shoreline by opposing off shore drilling and working with Clean Ocean Action.

Posted: July 16th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Marriage Equality, NJ State Legislature | Tags: , , , , | 52 Comments »


The ultimate hypocrisy – voters in the 11th District are tired of professional politicians who play the public

The following is a statement issued by 11th District Democratic Senate Candidate Ray Santiago in response to a July 3rd Courier Post news report that incumbent Senator Jennifer Beck will flip her position on marriage equality:

“News this weekend that Senator Beck will now support marriage equality after voting against it when all of New Jersey was watching is not shocking to anyone who has followed Beck’s career as a professional politician. She now faces a district which includes Asbury Park, Ocean Grove & other LGBT friendly areas – a new district which has 10,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans – therefore, it should come as no surprise that Senator Beck is flipping her position only due to politics.

The reality is that New Jersey taxpayers are tired of hypocritical, professional politicians who change their positions based on the political climate. Republicans, Democrats and all New Jerseyians should be tired of politicians who play the public. It is not like the Senator opposed marriage equality because it is in her belief system, it was simply due to the politics of a new district.This is an issue of human rights and Senator Beck plays politics – She voted against marriage equality not once, but twice – once in the judiciary committee and a second time on the floor of the senate and now because of a new district, she claims she supports it.

When it mattered most and the world was watching, Senator Beck decided to appease Chris Christie and her Tea Party base. All New Jerseyians who support human rights and full marriage equality for all of our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community will see through Beck’s incredible hypocrisy.

I have and always will support full marriage equality for all New Jerseyians and 11th district residents can be assured that I will not change my position based on politics. Marriage equality is a human rights issue which I will fight day and night for until it becomes law. It is a sad day to see a New Jersey state senator play politics on an issue of human rights.”

Posted: July 5th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Jennifer Beck, NJ State Legislature, Press Release | Tags: , , , | 37 Comments »