Legislature takes first step toward writing same sex marriage into New Jersey law

 Politico

12/09/2021

New Jersey lawmakers are working to write same sex marriage into state law. 

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Eight years after it became legal by court order, New Jersey may soon write same sex marriage into state law.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted, 4-0, to advance legislation, NJ A5367 (20R), that says, “laws concerning marriage and civil union shall be read with gender neutral intent.”

"The statutes of our state have never caught up to the court decisions ... which no longer treated same-sex couples as second class citizens. So it’s important that we take this step and ensure that our law enshrines these rights," said Assemblymember Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), the committee chair.

New Jersey began allowing gay couples to wed in late 2013 after a state Superior Court judge ruled the ban on same-sex marriage violated the equal protection guarantee of the New Jersey Constitution, despite a civil union law enacted in 2006.

Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage nationwide.

“Since that decision, at least two or three of the present justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have questioned that decision and called for its reversal,” Bill Singer, an attorney who works with same sex couples who want to marry, told the committee. “ Where does that leave same sex couples in New Jersey? Their right to marry hangs from the slender thread of a single decision by a trial court judge. That’s precarious.”

Singer said he authored the legislation, which is sponsored or co-sponsored by 12 Democrats.

Context: Shortly after the New Jersey Supreme Court decision, the state Senate prepared to act on a bill that would have codified the ruling. But LGTBQ advocates protested because the bill included specific exemptions for religious institutions that were not addressed in the court decision — concessions originally made to win votes for an earlier version of the legislation.

That earlier bill stated no religious group or institution “shall be compelled to provide space, services, advantages, goods, or privileges related to” marriage that is in violation of their beliefs and indemnified them from lawsuits. The Senate pulled the bill and has not acted on it since.

The bill that advanced Thursday does not include any religious exemptions, effectively leaving it up to courts.

The measure cleared with bipartisan support, as Assemblymember Christopher DePhillips (R-Bergen) joined three Democrats to vote in favor of it. Another Republican, Bob Auth (R-Bergen), had checked into the virtual committee hearing but was not present for the vote.

Opposition: The Rev. Gregory Quinlan, a conservative activist who says he’s “ex-gay,” testified against the measure.

“No one is born gay. The science is zero. And so for that reason there is no justification to codify homosexual marriage or any of the sundry identities that have been put out over the last number of years,” Quinlan said.

“I think your comments are three fries short of a Happy Meal," Mukheri responded.

“Why would you be so hateful towards my comments?” Quinlan said.

“I respect your right to speak but I find your comments to be abhorrent and hateful,” Mukherji said.

What’s next? This was the first legislative step for the bill, but it will likely move quickly during the lame duck session. Senate President Steve Sweeney said he’d like to pass the bill in the upper house on Dec. 20.

Sweeney said he became alarmed after it became clear to him that the U.S. Supreme Court would likely “gut” Roe v. Wade, declaring, “If they can do that, same-sex marriage can be the next thing.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-12-10 03:21:29 -0800