Christie Promised to Veto
In 2006 the Lewis v. Harris case resulted in the judges striking down a domestic partnership measure but just barely—the panel split four to three–allowing legislature legalizing civil unions instead of gay marriage. In the same year the official legislation was passed to recognize civil unions between same-sex couples and those granted by other states.
Three years later, the gay marriage debate resurfaced and at-the-time Governor Jon Corzine agreed to sign gay marriage into law if a bill reached him before leaving office. Unfortunately, it did not and his successor, Chris Christie, had made quite clear during his campaign that he was strongly against same-sex marriage. Once he did take office, a bill regarding legalizing gay marriage did reach his desk in February of 2012 but he vetoed it within hours.
The decision had always been clear but despite this, members of the state Assembly still debated for hours over the bill. Reverend Lee Zandstra of the Living Waters Lutheran Church supports gay marriage but nonetheless pointed out that the bill did not obligate congregations and religious groups to act counter to their beliefs regarding the issue.
However, Christie went forward with the veto while making a suggestion that he probably considered to be a compromise. He suggested appointing an ombudsman to receive complaints from same-sex couples about the civil union legislation and how to strengthen it. “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,’’ Christie said “discrimination should not be tolerated and any complaint alleging a violation of a citizen’s right should be investigated and, if appropriate, remedied.”
It seems as though the real problem is just the wording, and that “marriage” should be exclusive to heterosexual relationships.
In another statement Christie said “there is no fundamental constitutional right to same-sex marriage, but gay couples in New Jersey have all the rights and benefits of married couples through civil unions” and that if anyone was going to decide on the matter it would be the voters of New Jersey. The Senate’s President, Steve Sweeney, has promised to override it along with many others; groups like Garden State Equality, the biggest gay rights group in the state, will also likely take part in the action. Reed Gusciora is one of two openly gay New Jersey legislators and a sponsor of the bill who finds it disappointing that the governor has allowed his personal beliefs to deny so many New Jerseyans rights.
Subpar Civil Unions
Additionally, seven gay couples along with their children have sued on the grounds that this civil union law has not served its intended purpose.
The veto means that legislative action has been halted but gay rights and equal marriage rights activists are determined to land enough votes to override the decision by noon on January 14, 2014 which marks the end of the legislative session. Supporters will need almost twelve more Assembly votes and three more in the Senate to guarantee success.
- Can gay couples marry in New Jersey? No.
- Can gay couples enter into civil unions? Yes.