For the last several weeks, gay activists had hoped to get a gay marriage bill onto the desk of the current New Jersey governor before his replacement is sworn in. Today those hopes were dashed as the New Jersey state Senate voted to reject a gay-marriage bill.
Last month, hours of debate in front of the state's Senate Judiciary Committee yielded approval for a bill that would have added the Garden State to the small group of U.S. states with legal gay marriage. Urgency was given to the process by the fact that, while current governor John Corzine is willing, even eager, to sign a gay-marriage law, his replacement, Governor-elect Chris Christie, is strongly opposed to such a law. Christie is due to be sworn in later this month, so this bill was a last hope for the state. But this Thursday, following about 90 minutes of debate on the bill, the Senate voted 20 to 14 to put that hope out of reach.
Governor Corzine was visibly disappointed by the results. Though he was glad the bill had been publicly debated, he said he was "deeply disappointed by the final tally on this common-sense measure that would have assured equal rights for all New Jerseyans." He went on to speak of the importance of equal rights for all. "Most assuredly, this is an issue of civil rights and civil liberties, the foundation of our state and federal constitutions," Corzine said. "Denying any group of people a fundamental human right because of who they are, or whom they love, is wrong, plain and simple."
New Jersey has had domestic partnerships since 2002 and civil unions since 2006, but as is often pointed out, such unions do not have the same rights as marriages in the eyes of the federal government, not to mention broader society. Unfortunately, New Jersey will not soon be joining the slim ranks of states that feel that "separate but equal" is a concept deserving to be retired for all time.