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NJ Lawmaker Poised To Re-Introduce Gay Marriage Bill [AUDIO]

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In the 2006 Lewis v. Harris case, the New Jersey Supreme Court mandated marriage equality to all consenting couples in the State.  The court held that denying rights and benefits to same-sex couples that are statutorily given to their heterosexual counterparts violates the equal protection guarantee of the New Jersey Constitution.

In January of 2010, the New Jersey State Senate rejected a bill to legalize gay marriage. The vote was 20 opposed and 14 in favor. A lot has changed since then. State Senator Steve Sweeney who was Majority Leader at the time did not cast a vote. He’s now the Senate President and is on record saying he regrets not supporting the legislation. Several Republican lawmakers have also voiced support.

In June, New York became the 6th state to legalize gay marriage and earlier this week, Bob Menendez, New Jersey’s junior U.S. Senator pledged his support on the federal level.

New Jersey Assemblyman Reed Gusciora has been leading the charge for marriage equality and he thinks the tide has turned in his bill’s favor. He says, “I’m actually excited about the prospects of the new legislative session. I’ve had a meeting with the (Assembly) Speaker (Sheila Oliver) and she has encouraged me to re-introduce the bill…….It’s been requested to be pre-filed and the Speaker would like to even sign on to the bill as well as other members and I think we’re going to get bi-partisan support this time around.”

Under Gusciora’s measure, “marriage” would be defined as the legally recognized union of two consenting persons in a committed relationship. The bill provides that whenever the term “marriage” occurs or the term “man,” “woman,” “husband” or “wife” occurs in the context of marriage or any reference is made thereto in any law, statute, rule, regulation or order, the same shall be deemed to mean or refer to the union of two persons pursuant to the bill. The legislation provides that it is the intent of the Legislature that the bill be interpreted consistently with the guarantees of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and of the New Jersey Constitution.

Gusciora says, “I think as more and more time goes on and the public is educated about the issue, they’re more supportive of full marriage equality for all New Jerseyans (and) I think that at the end of the day I think that we could even convince the Governor (Chris Christie) to do the right thing as well.”

In the past, Christie has said he’s “not a fan” of gay marriage and has indicated he will not the bill if it is passed by both house of the legislature.

The Assemblyman’s bill specifically provides that no member of the clergy of any religion authorized to solemnize marriage and no religious society, institution or organization in this State would be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or by the New Jersey Constitution. The bill also provides that no religious society, institution or organization in this State serving a particular faith or denomination shall be compelled to provide space, services, advantages, goods, or privileges related to the solemnization, celebration or promotion of marriage if such solemnization, celebration or promotion of marriage is in violation of the beliefs of such religious society, institution or organization.

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