New Jersey's state Assembly approved a gay-marriage bill on Thursday,Gov. Chris Christie.,Md. delegates delay gay marriage vote again, & more
TRENTON, N.J. spoke about faith, tradition and history Thursday before passing legislation in the New Jersey state Assembly that would allow same-sex marriage and sending it toward an inevitable confrontation with Gov. Chris Christie. CLICK CONTINUE WATCH THE VIDEO
Even with the outcome certain in the state Assembly, members debated for more than two hours over the measure. Overwhelmingly, Democrats took to the floor to declare that the chamber stood at a crucial moment and that it was time to cross the cultural threshold.
"This is a vote history will want to know, at the end of the day, what side you were on, whether it's women's suffrage or ending segregation laws, history will remember those who had the moral courage to do what was right," said the bill's sponsor, Democratic Assemblyman Reed Gusciora.
The bill passed, but barely, 42-33. That's a dozen less than the number needed to override the veto vowed by Christie, a Republican.
The few Republicans who spoke backed Christie's contention that the voters, and not the 120 members of the state Legislature, ought to decide matter that impacts society so strongly.
Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber said the bill represented an attack on the traditional notion of marriage, since it proffered no more rights than had already been granted under the state's civil union law.
"This bill is really about redefining an important institution of civil society, and that should all give us great pause," Webber said. "The relationship of marriage is not created by the state. The state doesn't, and shouldn't, control it."
The bill is expected to arrive on Christie's desk Friday. His office offered no comment on its passage.
In a jubliant news conference after vote, Gusciora and Democratic state Sen. Loretta Weinberg both held out hope that Christie could somehow be persueded to sign the bill.
"I hope the governor reconsiders," said Gusciora. "Scrooge, after a good nights sleep, changed his mind, so I hope he will as well."
Seven states plus the District of Columbia allow gay marriage. Washington State was the latest to pass the measure into law.
Although Thursday's passage was expected, the gallery overlooking the Assembly chambers was packed. On the left side, overlooking the Democrats, blue-shirted members of Garden State Equality, packed into seats.
On the right side, over the Republicans, a small group of Orthodox Jews sat in the front row. One man read silently from a book of scripture. Another group, wearing red shirts, from El Shaddai Church in Elizabeth, cheered loudly when the GOP moved to table the bill.
Most Democrats stood to speak in favor of gay marriage. Some described discussing the matter at church and with members of their families.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver said the bill was really about civil rights.
"I should never try to impose my ideologies and beliefs on people, and to have a healthy respect for others," Oliver said. "My Judeo-Christian teaching taught me that I do not have the right to judge anyone else."
In an allusion to the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Oliver promised that "no one will turn into a pillar of salt" for voting for the bill.
After the vote, the Rev. Lee Zandstra of the Living Waters Lutheran Church in Ringoes, who backs gay marriage, noted that the bill allows congregations to adhere to their own beliefs on the issue. But she said the debate would continue in the pews anyway.
"Every denomination is having to deal with this issue," Zandstra said. "It's not going to go away."
Moshe Bresler of Lakewood, executive director of Garden State Parents for Moral Values, declared victory because there are not enough votes for a veto override.
"We need a moral culture for our religion to survive," Bresler said. "A democratic republic has to have a moral culture. Without that, it can not survive."
The gay marriage legislation passed the state Senate on Monday by a 24-16 vote, with 10 more Senators voting for it than in January 2010, when the bill failed 14-20. Nonetheless, the bill is still three votes short of what would be needed for a veto override.
"If the bill comes to my desk, I am vetoing it," Christie said last week. "And I will use every resource that I have at my disposal to make sure that my veto is sustained." SOURCE
BACK STORY BELOW
Bills to permit gay marriage in New Jersey and Maryland face key legislative debates and votes on Thursday, highlighting a hot-button social issue gaining prominence in the election year debate.
In New Jersey, the Assembly takes up the "Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act," which passed the Senate on Monday. The bill is expected to pass the Democratic-led lower house as well, but faces a promised veto by Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican often talked about as a possible vice presidential candidate.
In Maryland, the House of Delegates will begin debate on the "Civil Marriage Protection Act" sponsored by Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat.
The bill was passed by two House committees on Tuesday, but it remains unclear if O'Malley and his allies have pulled together the 71 votes needed to clear the full House. Comparable legislation failed in the House a year ago when a number of African-American Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the measure.
A procedural move in the House on Wednesday morning designed to buy more time before a final vote delayed the start of the floor debate until Thursday.
"This just gives everyone a chance to have a good look at it," said Del. Shane Pendergrass, the Democrat who moved for the bill to be held for a day.
A final vote in the House could come by the end of the week. Should it pass, it will proceed to the Senate, where a bill to allow same-sex marriage passed a year ago.
The action in the Maryland and New Jersey statehouses follows passage of legislation in Washington state. Gov. Christine Gregoire signed the Washington bill on Monday, but it will not take effect until at least June. Opponents are working to gather signatures for a ballot initiative in November that would block the legislation.
A federal appeals court in California earlier this month overturned that state's gay marriage ban, enacted through a 2008 ballot initiative. That sets up a possible showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court over the matter.
Seven states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages. In addition to Washington state, they are New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Iowa. SOURCE
Kach believes that change would provide more time to bring a referendum on the bill.
“I want the referendum,” he said. “I want the people to have the opportunity to petition the bill to referendum because I think it’s such an important decision for all Marylanders to make, not just the 188 legislators.”
Delegate Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery, accepted Kach’s amendment on behalf of the committees that considered bill, even though they had previously rejected the plan.
“Some of it is, in an issue like this, making sure that everyone has a comfort level certainly makes sense,” said Dumais, vice chairwoman of the judiciary committee.
Advocates for same-sex marriage have been working this week to collect the last couple votes need to reach the 71 required to pass the bill. Several lawmakers, including Kach, announced their support this week.
“I understand that they are still working some people, but we’re still really positive,” Dumais said. “Truly these are some really complicated issues.”
Those votes appeared to still be in the balance Thursday as lawmakers offered their support to the bill while another remained hospitalized and expected to miss the Friday session.
Delegate John Olszewski, a Baltimore County Democrat considered to be a swing vote on gay marriage, said Thursday that while he favors legislation to create civil unions for gay couples, he would support the bill.
“While members of my church - and I am sure many communities - disagree over this issue, I simply cannot vote to deny other individuals access to the same legal rights and responsibilities that are given to me and my wife by the State,” Olszewski said in a statement released Thursday.
Delegate Veronica Turner, D-Prince George’s, who supported the bill in committee earlier this week, said she may even miss a final vote if it is taken Friday.
Turner, who is in the hospital and scheduled to have emergency surgery that day, will not be on the House floor.
She would not elaborate on her health Thursday afternoon, but said that her condition was “serious.”
Minority leader Anthony O’Donnell, R-Calvert, maintains that gay marriage advocates do not have enough votes to pass the bill and suggests that is why the measure has been delayed for the second time this week.
“The votes apparently aren’t there,” he said. “The other side is trying to gain the votes, so they needed another day’s delay so they could continue to meet and work on people.”
The House is scheduled to debate the bill and consider amendments Friday. It is unclear when a final vote will take place, although it could come as soon as that afternoon. SOURCE