BY ADELE SAMMARCO
“It is time. It’s the right thing to do.”
Those were the words of Washington Governor Christine Gregoire last month before she introduced a bill for same-sex marriage, making her state the seventh in the nation to legalize marriage between gay couples.
“I have been on my own journey. I will admit that. It has been a battle for me with my religion and I have always been uncomfortable with the position I took publicly and then I came to realize, the religions can decide what they want to do, but it is not okay for the state to discriminate,” said Gregoire.
Gregoire, a Roman Catholic, penned a letter to fellow Catholic, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, urging him to reconsider his opposition to legalize same-sex marriage in the Garden State.
Christie has vowed a “very swift veto” as the bill was delivered early Friday to his desk after the Assembly voted 42 to 33 Thursday.
The New Jersey State Senate passed the gay marriage proposal on Monday.
Christie believes the issue should go to a statewide referendum; however Democrats believe the issue is one of civil rights and equality, and insist it should not be put to a vote.
“It’s time for us to standup and accept, and respect religious freedom, but it’s time for us to standup and understand the state can not be in the business of discrimination,” said Gregoire.
Opponents of gay marriage argue the state should deny a marriage license to same-sex couples based on the premise that marriage is for procreation.
Gregoire shot back, “Do we then deny a license to heterosexual couples who choose not to have children? To those who can’t have children or those who adopt? To those who have children through in-vitro fertilization?”
Yet those who remain opposed to the matter say same-sex marriage weakens the institution of marriage.
Gregoire pointed to the divorce rate among heterosexual couples that is now at about 50 percent and says when it comes to issuing a marriage license, the state should not involve itself in an applicant’s religion.
Gregoire said, “The responsibility of the state is to license only. The right of a church is to decide whom to marry, and the state will honor the religious freedom of all faiths. The arguments used today to discriminate based on sexual orientation should remind all of us of the arguments used to discriminate in the past, and specifically the laws banning interracial marriage.”
Of her decision to support the measure, Gregoire added with relief, “I feel so much better today than I have in the last seven years.”
Gregoire is hoping Christie, too, will have a change of heart.
However, political strategists believe Christie has his sights set on higher aspirations.
Steven Goldstein, chairman of the state's largest gay rights group, Garden State Equality, said Christie would veto the bill because of his national political ambitions.
"He won't veto the bill because he's anti-gay," Goldstein said in a statement. "He'll veto the bill because the 2016 South Carolina presidential primary electorate is anti-gay", according to the Associated Press.
Six states and Washington, D.C., allow gay marriage. Washington state’s new gay marriage law is set to go into effect in June.
Shortly after 5 p.m. Friday, Christie released a statement that he would conditionally veto S1, marriage equality bill.
“Today, I am adhering to what I’ve said since this bill was first introduced – an issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide," said Christie. "I continue to encourage the Legislature to trust the people of New Jersey and seek their input by allowing our citizens to vote on a question that represents a profoundly significant societal change. This is the only path to amend our State Constitution and the best way to resolve the issue of same-sex marriage in our state."