WESTFIELD – Joined by members of Garden State Equality and various advocates from around the state, Senate Democrats today called on Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. to allow members of his caucus to vote their conscience on an override of Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of marriage equality legislation.
“This should not be a partisan issue. In fact, rarely are issues so clear and void of middle ground: you either believe everyone should be treated the same or you don’t. The governor’s veto was wrong and the Minority Leader should set the example his father set three decades ago when he told legislators to vote their conscience,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland).
“The Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA made absolutely clear that people who are in loving, committed relationships deserve to be treated equally, no matter what their gender,” said Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen). “The Court’s decision means it is long past time we establish true equality in the state of New Jersey. Because of personal political ambition, Gov. Christie has made clear that he will not support the idea of equality. That means it is up to our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to do the right thing and vote to override his veto.”
The New Jersey Legislature passed legislation establishing marriage equality in February 2012. The governor promptly vetoed the legislation. Only two Republicans in the Senate voted in favor of marriage equality. The final Senate vote was 24-16, meaning three more votes will be required to override the veto.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA clearly determines that New Jersey’s civil union law is inherently unequal and that it discriminates against same sex couples,” said Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex/Passaic), a sponsor of New Jersey’s marriage equality legislation. “The Court’s conclusive finding that only married same sex couples can receive the same benefits as married heterosexual couples, creates a Constitutional obligation for the Legislature to override the Governor’s veto. It is now time for Minority Leader Kean to stand up to end discrimination and provide for marriage equality.”
The press conference was held in Westfield at the home of Liz Flanagan and Nancy Wilkinson, who have been in a committed relationship for over 30 years. They had a civil union in 2008, however, they still cannot enjoy the same benefits as different-sex couples because New Jersey does not have marriage equality. Flanagan and Wilkinson were joined at the press conference by their grandchildren.
“Marriage equality is about equal rights for our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters – no matter who they love. When we talk about the people who are being treated as second-class citizens, we are talking about our family, our friends, our neighbors and our coworkers. We are talking about people like Liz and Nancy, who have been together for decades, clearly love one another, and yet for reasons that make no sense whatsoever, cannot be joined in marriage. The time for equality in this state is long past due,” said Senator Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex).
In 1982, then-Governor Kean vetoed legislation that required public schools to set aside time for prayer each day. When the Republican controlled Legislature moved to override his veto, Kean declared that each member was free to vote his or her conscience on the issue. The override attempt was successful.
“Minority Leader Kean can make the same mark on history his father did all those years ago,” said Senator Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), sponsor of the same-sex marriage legislation and legislation that would ban the practice known as conversion therapy. “Governor Kean made clear that Republicans in the Legislature were free to vote their conscience, not as the political party saw fit. By allowing the Republican members of the Senate to do the same on marriage equality, Minority Leader Kean can forever etch his name into the history books as someone who stood up for what was fair and just, and not as someone who simply toed the party line.”
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