Marriage Equality in New Jersey?

An uncertain future

New Jersey’s first openly gay Assemblyman Reed Gusciora may have introduced legislation this week that would put same-sex marriage on the ballot as early as next year, but leaders in the Garden State seem to be at odds over whether voters should decide the fate of what many are calling a civil rights issue.

That’s not stopping LGBT groups and other marriage equality supporters from using some of the momentum of last month’s successes in states like Maryland and Maine to help move the issue forward, even if some legislators seem to be dragging their heels.

And while Gov. Chris Christie says he would veto the legislation, a majority of Jersey voters say they support gay marriage rights. A recent poll has support at over half (53 percent) with as many as 72 percent of voters saying they would like to go to the polls to decide the issue.

New Jersey is now the only state in the country where a push for marriage equality can be seen both in potential legislation and the courts – specifically in the case of Garden State Equality v. Dow involving seven same-sex couples who say they are being discriminated against. Supporters have until January 2014 to win an override to a bill that’s also pending.

Not everyone wants to see a vote, however.

This week, three major organizations – HRC, Freedom to Marry and Garden State Equality – all voiced their support for N.J. Sen. President Steven Sweeney, who says that he will not post a referendum bill to committee. “I do not believe you put civil rights on the ballot, period,” he said. “It is the job of elected officials to ensure that everyone is provided equal protection and equal rights under the law.”