New Jersey Assembly Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill, Christie Veto Awaits

The New Jersey General Assembly followed in the footsteps of the State Senate today by passing a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, but it’s unlikely to withstand an expected veto by Governor Chris Christie:

The New Jersey Assembly on Thursday passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriages, setting the stage for an expected veto by Gov. Chris Christie.

The 41-33 vote sends the bill to Christie’s desk. The Republican governor who opposes gay marriage had promised “very swift action” if the bill passed both houses of the Legislature. The Senate approved the bill Monday.

Christie and most state Republican lawmakers want gay marriage put to a popular vote. Democrats say gay marriage is a civil right protected by the Constitution and not subject to referendum.

(…)

The affirmative vote in the Assembly ended weeks of speculation over whether Democrats who control the chamber would muster the 41 votes needed for the measure to pass.

The Senate passed the bill 24-16. In that chamber, two Republicans voted for the bill and two Democrats voted against it in what was otherwise a party-line vote.

The bill would need several Republican votes in each house to override the governor; Christie himself essentially guaranteed that that won’t happen.

With that in mind, Democrats who identified same-sex marriage as their No. 1 priority for the two-year legislative session that began in January have adopted a longer view. They say there’s no rush for an override vote, especially because the Legislature has been unsuccessful in every prior attempt to override Christie, most notably to reinstate a surcharge on millionaires.

Instead, they plan to bide their time in hopes that support for gay marriage – currently 52-42 percent in New Jersey, according to one recent voter poll – will continue to grow.

“Civil rights is incremental, civil rights is long range, and you take one achievement at a time,” said Steven Goldstein, head of the state’s largest gay rights group, Garden State Equality.

In case same-sex couples can’t win gay marriage through legislation, they have engaged in a parallel fight in the courts. Seven gay couples and several of their children have sued, claiming that the state’s civil union law doesn’t work as intended.

In order to override Christie’s veto, Democrats would need to find three more yes votes for the bill in the State Senate. In the Assembly, where at least six Democrats voted no on the bill, Democrats would need to find 13 votes willing to switch sides. While they have until the end of 2013 to take up the veto, it seems unlikely that they’d be able to do so and that Christie will move forward with the idea of a referendum on the issue. Given that this remains a close issue not only in New Jersey, but around the nation, I cannot say I’m surprised that Christie would veto the bill even though it’s slightly disappointing that even the Northeastern wing of the Republican Party hasn’t fully come around on this issue yet.

On the legal front, New Jersey’s bar on same-sex marriage may find itself in a similar position as California’s Proposition 8. One of the factors cited by the Ninth Circuit in its recent decision striking down that law was the fact that California, like New Jersey, already permitted civil unions for gays and lesbians and already granted a number of marriage-like rights to them. The only thing the law barred was the right to be married, which carries with it both benefits not granted by state law and a social status. The Court ruled that there was no rational basis to exclude gays and lesbians from the status of “married” given that the law already granted them a number of marriage-like rights. I would expect the litigants in New Jersey to make similar arguments.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Quick Takes, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    Chris Christie will rue his veto.

  2. I doubt it.

  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Actually I think he will Doug. The shift in the tide on this issue has surprised me.

  4. Joe,

    The polling in NJ has this at a 50-50 split. When you’ve even got Democrats voting against the bill, you know that we’re still dealing with an issue where there is deep division. We’re approaching a time when demographics will win the argument, but we’re not there yet.

    On a related note, I draw your attention to this article in the New York Times about the effort to push a similar bill through the Maryland legislature. In that state, same-sex marriage is meeting resistance from the African-American community.

  5. grumpy realist says:

    If we were going to go by popular vote, interracial marriage would have been illegal for quite a few more years after it was struck down by the Supreme Court.

    Which is why I distrust the “popular vote” argument.

  6. grumpy realist says:

    Whoops, bans against interracial marriage being struck down, I of course mean.

  7. Herb says:

    Nothing says “small government” than telling the gays they can’t get married……

  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Doug what would the vote have been 10 years ago? I have no position on this issue, it doesn’t particularly interest me but 10 years ago would even democratic controlled houses in the NJ legislature been passing gay marriage legislation. I’m much older than you but I suspect I’m ten times more in touch with the zeitgeist than you’ll ever be.

  9. Joe,

    I’m not saying that remarkable progress hasn’t been made on this issue, and that’s a good thing. However, I think it’s inaccurate to say that same-sex marriage has become generally accepted publicly. We’re getting there, but it’s still going to take a little more time.

  10. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    We’re getting there, but it’s still going to take a little more time.

    What’s

    a little more time

    in the context of Christie rueing this decision?

  11. @Brummagem Joe:

    I don’t think this decision will be a significant issue in the 2013 elections in New Jersey. That’s my point.

  12. llama says:

    The northeast wing of the Republican party is renouncing their support for birth control and it’s surprising that Republicans don’t believe in gay marriage? Hardly.

  13. Herb says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    “We’re getting there, but it’s still going to take a little more time. “

    A wise man once wrote:

    Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men, generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to put out its faults, and do better than it would have them?

    There’s no wrong time to do the right thing.

  14. An Interested Party says:

    On a related note, I draw your attention to this article in the New York Times about the effort to push a similar bill through the Maryland legislature. In that state, same-sex marriage is meeting resistance from the African-American community.

    From that article, stories like this will change that resistance…

    Whatever the bill’s fate, the process of talking about it has changed something for black people here, supporters say. Mr. Jackson, the union worker, said a colleague had come into his office recently and broken down in tears. Her daughter is gay, the woman said, and they had never spoken of it, choosing instead to pretend it was not there. Soon after, she called her daughter, Mr. Jackson said, and told her she accepted her.

    As for Christie, I wonder what are his chances to be re-elected…his veto may be moot after next year…

  15. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Obviously this won’t the THE issue but to the extent is energises a particular group it can’t be discounted. Basically this is a democratic state we’re talking about or had you forgotten that?

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Herb:

    Herb, thanx for the quote… Who?

  17. Tsar Nicholas says:

    He won’t garner their votes, but one thing’s for certain: Christie’s upcoming veto will be well received in places like Newark, Patterson, Camden and Jersey City. For the simple reason the demographic most stridently opposed to gay marraige is the black community. Just check out the exit polling data from California’s Prop. 8. Blacks here in California voted overwhelmingly to ban gay marriages. The same will hold true in the Garden State. Probably the greatest irony there is that bleeding heart, lily-white liberals would not be able even to grasp the irony.

    In any event, as a separate matter, Christie really has no choice but to veto that bill. You can’t run for president as a Republican if you don’t oppose gay marriages — or at least oppose the idea of not having a people’s referendum on that issue — and Christie intends ultimately to run for president.

  18. Herb says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: It’s Thoreau. From “Civil Disobedience.”

  19. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Heh genius how Christie handled gay marriage isn’t going to make a cents worth of difference in the black community in a gubernatorial whereas he’s definitely lost right leaning gays.and gay supporters.

  20. Herb says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “Just check out the exit polling data from California’s Prop. 8. Blacks here in California voted overwhelmingly to ban gay marriages.”

    Support for Prop 8 was largely determined by religiosity, not race. Check this out:

    Here we present data indicating that while African Americans did support the measure at higher rates than voters as a whole, we have strong reason to think that their support was not as high as that estimated by the National Election Pool (NEP) exit poll (70
    percent). Analysis of the full range of data available persuades us that the NEP exit poll
    overestimated African American support for Proposition 8 by ten percentage points or
    ore. Furthermore, much of African Americans’ support for Proposition 8 can be
    xplained by the fact that blacks tend to be more religious than Californians as a whole.

  21. Catfish says:

    My opinion is that this should be decided at the local level – counties or towns. Let the people there decide this issue. The federal and state government should certainly stay out.

  22. PD Shaw says:

    I support this type of legislation as part of the political process, but unless there is something about New Jersey law or custom, I assume the governor’s veto is part of the political process.

    African-Americans and women won the majority of their civil rights battles through the political process. Particularly in the case of African-Americans, the Supreme Court did more harm than good.

    African-Americans are the strongest opponents of same sex marriage, but that is because they are very religious.

  23. David M says:

    @Catfish: That’s pretty unworkable considering the individual States are the ones granting marriage licenses.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    Thankfully the GOP has guaranteed that no African-Americans will ever vote for the GOP, regardless of issues like marriage equality.

    As for Christie, the day may come when he will try to run for president. Four years from now this veto will look like what it is: the action of a narrow-minded bigot.

    Things have changed since the sixties when when the GOP sold its soul by courting the racist vote. We have vastly better media now. We have the internet. We have social media. It won’t be as easy to slip-slide away from actions like this and pretend they never happened.

    This will hang around Christie’s neck. He’s a bad person doing a bad thing for bad reasons.

  25. Robert in SF says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Blacks here in California voted overwhelmingly to ban gay marriages.

    My various web clippings in Evernote include the following link:
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/11/07/656272/-Facts-Belie-the-Scapegoating-of-Black-People-for-Proposition-8

    I don’t know your source for the claim that blacks “overwhelmingly” voted for Prop 8….but perhaps you are using the word to mean “a simple majority” or “over 50%”….but I can’t determine what you mean without a citation.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/11/07/656272/-Facts-Belie-the-Scapegoating-of-Black-People-for-Proposition-8

    But an analysis of precinct-level voting data on Prop. 8 from Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco counties, which are home to nearly two-thirds of California’s black voters, suggested that African American support for Prop. 8 was more likely about 58 percent.

    That support among blacks is still well above the 52 percent Prop. 8 received from all voters in the Nov. 4 election. Much of that can be attributed to the strong religious tradition in the black community, where 57 percent of African American voters attend church at least once a week, compared with 42 percent of Californians overall.

    “The study debunks the myth that African Americans overwhelmingly and disproportionately supported Proposition 8,” Andrea Shorter, director of And Marriage for All, said in a statement.

  26. An Interested Party says:

    African-Americans and women won the majority of their civil rights battles through the political process. Particularly in the case of African-Americans, the Supreme Court did more harm than good.

    Umm, how’s that?

  27. @Tsar Nicholas: Right, just like the 2006 referendum on banning gay marriage here in Virginia helped George Allen breeze to victory.

    Oh wait, the conventional wisdom is that the referendum caused African-American voters to turn out at a higher than normal percentage for an off-year election and helped Jim Webb win.

  28. @PD Shaw: Come again? Brown and Loving caused more harm than good?

  29. anjin-san says:

    I doubt it.

    You are probably right. Playing the bigot card rarely fails in the GOP.

  30. Fiona says:

    In any event, as a separate matter, Christie really has no choice but to veto that bill. You can’t run for president as a Republican if you don’t oppose gay marriages — or at least oppose the idea of not having a people’s referendum on that issue — and Christie intends ultimately to run for president.

    Well, he has a choice, but it’s a pretty big gamble if he intends to run in 2016. Hard to see the Republican base warming up to the guy who signed gay marriage into law in New Jersey.

  31. PD Shaw says:

    @Timothy Watson: @An Interested Party:

    One piece of legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, had far greater impact than all of the Supreme Court decisions put together. Brown is most significant for overturning the SCOTUS opinion in Plessy. The SCOTUS also overturned a number of civil rights laws in the Reconstruction period when they would have been the most powerful. Brown is often an impediment to education reform these days (is separate inherently unequal?)

    Women in particular gained almost all of their victories through the political process, including the CVA.

    I’ll grant that Loving was a significant case, but it involved a novel criminal law. The Courts can play a significant role in overseeing the criminal justice system, but they can’t move public opinion and direct social equity concerns.

  32. Herb says:

    @PD Shaw: “they can’t move public opinion and direct social equity concerns. ”

    There’s something to that, which is why we don’t decide these things based on public opinion. I know there are a lot of people who don’t yet accept the full humanity or legal equality of gay people. Those people are wrong. The rest of us have no responsibility to make procedural excuses for them. Me, personally. I don’t care whether it’s through the courts or the legislature. Any road to legitimacy is a legitimate road.

    I also recognize that whether it’s through the court s (Iowa) or the legislature (New Jersey), gay marriage opponents will never be appeased because to them, it’s not about procedure. It’s about banning gay marriage, and they too have the “any road to legitimacy is a legitimate road” idea in mind. See California.

  33. An Interested Party says:

    I also recognize that whether it’s through the court s (Iowa) or the legislature (New Jersey), gay marriage opponents will never be appeased because to them, it’s not about procedure.

    Exactly right…much as some people might not like it, the judicial route is also part of the political process…

  34. michael reynolds says:

    @Fiona:
    Actually, I suspect by 2016 gay marriage will be a non-issue — except as yet another conservative embarrassment.

    This issue has progressed with astounding speed. The anti-gay demographic is quite literally dying off. Add that to what will be a desperate search for new GOP voters and I think a paradigm shift is already underway. Before the next cycle marriage equality will probably be the law in every blue and purple state and I suspect it will be polling above 50% even in the GOP backwaters.

  35. grumpy realist says:

    As more gay people come “out”, more and more of their relatives are realizing that it’s one thing being “for traditional marriage”; it’s another thing when you are cutting off the possibility of marriage to a dearly-loved individual for your son/daughter/grandkid. Particularly when it means you sticking to your position might result in you not seeing your son/daughter/grandkid again….