As the New Jersey state legislature convenes this week, leaders of the Senate and Assembly have announced that marriage equality will be their number one priority. The chambers will introduce the bill tomorrow, the first day of the legislative session and Republican Governor Chris Christie's State of the State address.
"The world has changed since the legislature last debated a marriage equality bill in 2009. Today, states with a combined population of more than 35 million people have marriage equality," says Steven Goldstein, Garden State Equality Chair. "The freedom to marry is now a success story that has made entire parts of our nation fairer - and no straight couple's marriage has fallen apart because of it."
"The days are over when marriage equality was the third rail of American politics. Today, in a state and nation that supports marriage equality, not standing up for equality is the third rail for prejudice."
"Make no mistake, this in a new America," Goldstein continued. "In the old America, zealots mocked LGBT people for wanting special rights, not equal rights. In the new America, our opponents want marriage as a special right for themselves."
It remains to be seen whether or not Christie will sign the bill. Supporters may not have the votes needed to override a veto.
All nine Democratic members of Congress from New Jersey have sent a letter to the state-level colleagues to urge support for the bill. The letter is after the break.
Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20510
January 6, 2012
Dear Democratic Colleagues in the New Jersey Senate and Assembly:
We, the entire Democratic membership of the New Jersey Congressional delegation, urge you to support the marriage equality bill being introduced by the Democratic leadership in the state Senate and Assembly, along with many sponsors.
New Jersey has a proud history of civil rights leadership, and we must continue our role in pursuing fairness and equality. Other states with a combined population of more than 35 million people already have marriage equality - including our next door neighbor, New York.
Although New Jersey has a civil union law, ample testimony before the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee two years ago demonstrated that the civil union law has not successfully provided equality to same-sec couples in New Jersey. Couples testified that hospitals still refuse visitation and medical-decision rights because they do not consider civil unions to be equal to marriage. Similarly, couples demonstrated that employers continue to refuse to grant equal benefits to civil union partners.
As more states recognize marriage equality, civil unions threaten to become an even less respected and understood alternative to marriage. The 2008 New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission concluded there was "overwhelming evidence that civil unions will not be recognized by the general public as the equivalent of marriage in New Jersey with the passage of time."
It is important to note that New Jersey enacted the strongest possible civil union law in 2006. Therefore, it is not feasible to "fix" the law short of providing marriage equality. The time has come to end discrimination in marriage. The marriage equality bill in the New Jersey legislature needs your support.
Frank R. Laurenberg, United States Senator
Robert Menendez, United States Senator
Rush Holt, Member of Congress
Robert Andrews, Member of Congress
Albio Sires, Member of Congress
Steven Rothman, Member of Congress
Bill Pascrell, Member of Congress
Frank Pallone, Jr., Member of Congress
Donals Payne, Member of Congress