BY TOM HESTER SR.
The state Senate Monday afternoon voted 24 to 16 in favor of legalizing gay marriage in New Jersey.
The vote on the Democratic-sponsored bill was along party lines and sets the measure up to be voted on by the Democratic-controlled Assembly on Thursday.
Gov. Chris Christie has vowed to veto the legislation (S-1/A-1) when it reaches his desk. Instead, the governor wants the issue of legalizing gay marriage to be decided through a referendum on the November ballot. In response, Democratic legislative leaders maintain civil rights should not be decided by popular vote and have declared they will not send him legislation creating a referendum.
Senators Ronald Rice (D-Essex) and Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) joined Republicans in opposing the measure, and Senators Jennifer Beck (R-monmouth) and Diane Allen (R-Burlington) were the only Republicans to support the measure.
In urging support for the bill, Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), a prime sponsor, said, “Today, we have an opportunity to be again on the right side of history and take our rightful place in being a leader among the fifty states. “We can join New York, Vermont, Washington, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa by approving marriage equality.
“The sanctity of marriage has not been endangered by marriage equality in those seven states,” the senator said. “In fact, it's been enhanced by allowing more loving couples to get married.
“Senators, where do you want New Jersey to be on the evolution of civil rights in the United States of America?,” Lesniak asked. “Where do you want to be on the evolution of civil rights in the United States of America. Are you going to soar like an eagle, or follow like a sheep?
“I choose to soar like an eagle.”
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), the bill’s other prime sponsor, said the state‘s civil union law is not effective and that same-sex couples should have the right to marry.
“The word marriage is society’s universal, civil and legal acknowledgement of a loving relationship – the same legal and civil recognition that my late husband Irwin and I enjoyed throughout our almost 40-year marriage,” Weinberg said. “Next week will be the 13th anniversary of his passing, and when I go to my synagogue to say my prayers during that service, I know that the bill we are considering today is for my rabbi and fellow congregants’ right to practice our religion as he and they see fit.