The bill, which passed the Assembly by a vote of 42-33 Thursday and the Senate by a vote of 24-16 Monday, would have defined marriage as the legally recognized union of two consenting people in a committed relationship, eliminating the civil unions that had been in place since 2007. Democrats maintained the law has failed to provide equal treatment to New Jersey’s same-sex couples.
"Governor Christie's veto is a shameful act hidden behind the guise of a public referendum,” Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said. “Today, he firmly planted his feet on the wrong side of history. He certainly does not deserve whatever credit he will probably receive for maintaining his misguided position. He had a chance to do the right thing, and failed miserably. The fight for marriage equality is not over. We will override this veto."
“It’s unfortunate that the governor would let his own personal ideology infringe on the rights of thousands of New Jerseyans,” Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), a prime sponsor of the bill, said. “For all those who oppose marriage equality, their lives would have been completely unchanged by this bill, but for same-sex couples, their lives would have been radically transformed. Unfortunately, the governor couldn’t see past his own personal ambitions to honor this truth.”
Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex) said, “This has, and always will be, a civil rights issue. When we look back in the annals of history, unfortunately, the governor will see that he was on the wrong side of justice. All the couples disappointed by his action today should take solace in the fact that we are not giving up this fight.”
Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), a prime sponsor of the measure, said, "The governor's failed attempt to rewrite his record on basic equal rights for same-sex couples is a smokescreen. As our Senate president has articulated, time and time again, the rights of same-sex couples do not belong on a ballot question. The only way to ensure equal rights for same-sex couples is to show leadership and pass the bill as is.
“Now that the governor has followed through on his promise to undercut marriage equality, it is up to us to follow through on our promise to work to override his misguided action," Lesniak said. "Belief in marriage equality is a matter of individual conscience, not a plank in a party platform. Now, we're going to go about rewriting the state's history. In the final chapter, doing what's right always prevails over doing what's politically expedient.”
The legislation would have also expressly stipulated that no clergy of any religion authorized to solemnize marriage, nor any religious society, institution or organization in the state, would be required to conduct any marriage in violation of their free exercise of religion.
On Monday, Washington became the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage. It is also legal in the District of Columbia.