The Democratic-controlled Assembly Judiciary Committee will meet Thursday to consider legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey.
The bill, the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act (A-1), would eliminate the civil unions that have been in place since 2007. Democrats maintain the law has not provided equal treatment to New Jersey’s same-sex couples. The Democrats who control the Legislature have made legalizing same-sex marriage their first priority of the new session. The plan to send the bill to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk but he has vowed to veto it. The governor wants the issue of same-sex marriage decided through a ballot referendum.
The bill would also provide that no clergy of any religion authorized to solemnize marriage nor religious society, institution or organization in the state would be required to conduct any marriage in violation of their free exercise of religion.
The hearing is set for 10 a.m. in Committee Room 4 of the Statehouse Annex in Trenton.
“The creation of civil unions has produced a separate-but-equal system, and as we know from our history classes, separate-but-equal is as unconstitutional as it is inherently unequal,” Assembly Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), a sponsor, said Friday. “This law would make a significant difference in providing equality to same-sex New Jersey couples and their children.”
“All evidence shows us that New Jersey’s civil union law falls far short in providing true equality,” Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex), a sponsor, said. “Civil unions send a message that same-sex couples and their families are not equal to married couples in the eyes of the law. This is the same message we heard from Jim Crow segregation laws. Separate treatment was wrong then. Separate treatment is wrong now.”
Gusciora and Oliver noted six states and the District of Columbia, together comprising 35 million Americans, allow same-sex couples to marry.
—TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM