Chris Christie | DOMA | Gay Marriage | New Jersey

New Jersey Marriage Equality Advocates Pick Up Three New Votes


Supporters of marriage equality in New Jersey have been hard at work to move legislators from the 'no' to the 'yes' column to override Gov. Chris Christie's 2012 veto of an equal marriage bill.  They have until the January 2014 expiration of the current legislative session to do so, but so far, Republicans have marched in near-lockstep with Christie and even some racalcitrant Democrats have held out on supporting equality marriage.  That is, until now, reports George Amick in

The bill Christie vetoed, S1, passed the Senate 24-16, with two Republicans, Sens. Diane Allen (R-Edgewater Park) and Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank), voting yes and two Democrats voting no. If those four votes remain unchanged, three additional yes votes will be needed to beat the veto.

In the Assembly, the tally was 42-33, with no Republicans voting yes, two Democrats voting no, three Republicans and one Democrat not voting, and one Democratic seat temporarily vacant. A veto override will require 12 additional ayes.

At least three of those 12 — one Republican and two Democratic — are in sight right now. 

Schepisi_colorThe Republican, first-time Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, says her decision was influenced by the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision invalidating Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.  The end of that provision in DOMA meant that New Jersey's civil unions--which were purportedly meant to provide same-sex couples the same legal rights as different-sex couples--mean that same-sex couples in New Jersey are locked out of federal marriage benefits.

As for Democrats, the two legislators who say they will back the override, Wayne DeAngelo and Gabriela Mosquera, were not available for the initial vote.  DeAngelo told Amick that he will seek his constituents' input on the issue, although he said pointedly, "I'm for equal treatment."

Amick also reported that New Jersey United for Marriage is optimistic that two Republicans who did not vote in 2012, Declan O'Scanlon and Mary Pat Angelini, will end up voting 'yes' on the override.

In his article, Amick includes an excerpt of the tough love message marriage equality advocates are presenting to state legislators in order to sway their votes:

“The Christie factor? Assume the governor is re-elected. Whether he wins big or wins small, the day he takes the oath of office he’ll be a lame duck. The pressure on you to do things his way will ease. In a couple of years, he could resign to run for president. But you’ll still be here, probably long after he’s gone. As for other concerns, we can show you evidence that only a tiny number of legislators nationwide who voted for gay marriage paid any price for it at election time.

“It’s going to be part of your legacy, one way or another. If it happens because of the courts, and not because of your vote, it will be a part of history that you can’t change. Do you really want to have to explain a few years from now — when marriage equality will be in the mainstream, not even in the discussion any longer — why you resisted it to the end?”

If the newly supportive lawmakers cited by Amick do not change their votes, marriage equality advocates would need nine more Assembly members and three more Senators to beat Christie's veto.  If that does end up happening, it'll quite likely come down to the wire.  And if the veto override doesn't occur, LGBT advocates will turn their sights back to the courts, where a state judge last month heard oral arguments as to whether civil unions violate both the New Jersey and U.S. Constitutions. 

(photo courtesy of Carmine Galasso and

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  1. Forgive me if I don't hold my breath but from my perspective the people of Jersey could give a rats @rse about the LGBT community.

    I know I'm generalizing but the hard truth is that they like Christie more than they care about our community.

    Posted by: Ryan from CT | Sep 16, 2013 7:37:10 PM

  2. They can either override his veto or the courts will do it for them.
    Because with DOMA being struck down and the recent rulings,it's clear civil unions are NOT equal to marriage.

    Posted by: Kevin | Sep 16, 2013 7:45:38 PM

  3. The actual number now needed in the assembly is 5. Other then the 2 supportive Republicans who were absent from the vote (for a wedding anniversary ironically) there is one Democrat who was absent who is supportive and one Republican seat that was vacated and filled by a supportive Democrat.

    Posted by: Stefan | Sep 16, 2013 8:05:10 PM

  4. What happened to the referendum?

    Posted by: rick scatorum | Sep 17, 2013 1:45:14 AM

  5. Christie can go down in history as the governor who blocked marriage equality in favor of his own political ambitions if he wants to, but NJ legislators might be disinclined to stay on that ship, especially since if he runs in 2016 he's likely to come home a loser.

    But if the legislators don't have the will, the Court certainly will since, as Kevin points out, CUs are clearly unequal to marriage post-DOMA and NJ is now in obvious violation of their 2006 SC ruling. The decision in favor of equality is a no-brainer. Only a matter of how long it takes, and if the legislators want to beat them to it.

    Posted by: Ernie | Sep 17, 2013 4:15:13 AM

  6. What makes you think the state courts will rule for same-sex marriage? Many state courts have not thus far, and Windsor doesn't explicitly mandate that all states recognize ssm.

    Posted by: Luke | Sep 17, 2013 8:34:38 AM

  7. Luke does have a point. I know it would be apparent that to uphold their own 2006 ruling on marriage equality the NJ SC would rule in favor of marriage, but Christie has been playing political hardball with the appointment of judges in NJ. And Corzine and the Democratic Leadership were chicken s**t to pass it in the lame duck session years ago.

    Posted by: MCnNYC | Sep 17, 2013 10:10:42 AM

  8. Luke,

    In Lewis v Harris, the NJ Supreme Court ruled that the state must provide equal rights to same-sex couples. At the time civil unions were sufficient since DOMA blocked federal benefits. Things have change drastically since June. Also, Christie's incredible weak defense of the law is an indication he wants them to rule in favor and get it over with.

    Posted by: Stefan | Sep 17, 2013 1:45:57 PM

  9. @Luke: The NJ case isn't just any state case. The 2006 NJ Supreme Court ruling made it clear that gay couples must have benefits and protections equal to straight couples. They left it to the legislature--similar to VT in 2000--to figure out a solution. Before Section 3 of DOMA was struck down, it could be argued (incorrectly but plausibly) that CUs were equal to marriage. Now, post SCOTUS-decision, there is NO valid argument for that, as was evidenced by the ridiculous ones the Christie administration put forth in last month's oral arguments. Any decision against marriage in NJ at this point would be legal absurdity.

    Posted by: Ernie | Sep 17, 2013 1:46:06 PM

  10. The Lewis v. Harris decision was a 4-3 decision. The 3 dissenting justices ruled that marriage equality was the only remedy. So had 1 more judge sided with them, the issue would have been settled back then in 2006.

    With 4 ruling for equal rights and 3 for marriage equality, chances are very high they will now rule in favor of marriage equality.

    Posted by: Robin | Sep 17, 2013 3:19:38 PM

  11. Robin above has left a great comment. It is likely that this will be decided in favour of marriage equality by the New Jersey Supreme Court. Of course, it is nearly certain that, that is the outcome that Governor Chris Christie is hoping for, and the justices probably know that, too.

    Posted by: RonCharles | Sep 17, 2013 4:39:19 PM

  12. I hope it IS the case that Christie is just waiting for someone else to move forward with this. I hope he'll see this post and listen to my marriage equality song...because, really, we humans are more alike than different.

    "What If We Are Just Like You" (youtube viral)

    ...i'm proud to be on the right side of history.

    Posted by: Sherri Gray | Sep 17, 2013 6:36:30 PM

  13. RonCharles,

    Exactly. If the summary judgment is indeed as iron clad as it seems the judge is trying to make it they won't even hear the case. Regardless even if they do it'll proceed quickly as most summary judgments typically do.

    Posted by: Stefan | Sep 18, 2013 1:33:59 AM

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