News Coverage on Marriage
NJ’s largest newspaper calls for constitutional amendment in favor of gay marriageBrody Levesque
NEWARK, N.J. — The New Jersey Star-Ledger — the state’s largest newspaper — on Thursday called for an amendment to the New Jersey state constitution that would legalize same-sex marriage in the Garden State.
It is heartening to see Democrats rally for a second charge on gay marriage after their failure to pass the measure in the days before Gov. Chris Christie took charge.
But let’s face it: This is not likely to succeed while Christie remains in office. He will veto it, as promised, and obedient Republicans in the Legislature will fall in line behind him, as always.
That’s the political lay of the land for the next two years, at least. If Christie wins re-election, this stalemate could drag on for six years. To most New Jersey citizens, that is simply not acceptable.
According to sources in Trenton, the governor is not saying what he’ll do in terms of the same-sex marriage bill, which the Democratic legislative leadership considers a major priority for this year’s session.
“They have a right to set their agenda, I’ll set mine, we’ll see who gets there first,” Christie said to reporters at an event in Camden. “When forced to make a decision, if forced to make a decision on it, I’ll make a decision.”
Christie has said previously that he favors the state’s civil unions law that was adopted in 2003.
It is clear by now the civil union law has failed to deliver equal rights. And the problem is not just the documented cases of gay couples facing discrimination in hospitals, workplaces or the insurance market.
The term “civil union” suggests that gay couples are somehow not worthy of full marriage, that they cannot be allowed to enter this club, that their sexual orientations make them second-class citizens. Dress it up all you want, that view is offensive on its face. The message it sends to gay couples and their children is toxic.
But in the debate over the possibility of passage of the same-sex law, one prominent Democratic lawmaker said he will not change his vote.
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May), who opposed the bill, said he supports strengthening the civil union law, but stops short of wanting to call it marriage.
“I deeply respect the civil liberties and rights of all New Jerseyeans, but I also believe that marriage over the centuries has been unique between a man and a woman,” said Van Drew. “I am am willing to work diligently to make civil unions contractually and legally more effective, but I will not be voting for marriage equality,” Van Drew said.
The Star-Ledger editorial finished with:
So what is to be done? Sponsors of the gay marriage bill hope they can win new converts in the next few months, enough to override Christie’s expected veto. Some even hope the governor will change his mind. That would be the ideal outcome.
But if all else fails, a constitutional amendment is worth a try as a last resort. Polls show New Jersey voters are ready to approve marriage equality today. And the tide is clearly moving in that direction, especially among young people. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has shown that it can be a popular cause, even in states with large Catholic populations such as New York and New Jersey.
This fight has been long and difficult, as winning civil rights for minority groups always is.
But the day will come when gay couples in New Jersey won’t have to look across the Hudson River and dream about equal treatment under the law.
They’ll have it right here at home — whether the governor likes it, or not.