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  • Nic F. Anderson

NJ Lawmakers Vote to Protect Equal Marriage

LGBTQ+ couples have been legally able to marry in New Jersey since October 2013 - two years before it was legalized on a federal level in 2015 - but lawmakers are trying to get it into state law to officially protect it.

New Jersey lawmakers decided that with the current political climate, it’s time to enshrine same-sex marriage to legally protect it in the case a legal challenge is made against the federal ruling.

The New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee committee voted 4-0 on Dec. 16 to push bill “NJ A5367 (20R)” forward. The bill says “laws concerning marriage and civil union shall be read with gender neutral intent.”

In 2013, the New Jersey State Superior Court ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violeted the equal protection guarentee in the state’s Constitution.

Bill Singer, an attorney and author of the legislation told the committee: “Since that decision, at least two or three of the present justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have questioned that decision and called for its reversal… Where does that leave same sex couples in New Jersey? Their right to marry hangs from the slender thread of a single decision by a trial court judge. That’s precarious.”

The bill is sponsored and cosponsored by 12 Democrats.

If the Senate and the Assembly pass the bill, it will land on Governor Phil Murphy's desk to be signed into law or vetoed.

Getting the bill into effect is critical, according to Chairperson of the Assembly Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson). ​​

“It underscores the need for us to take a look at this and move on this right now because there’s an actual threat,” he Mukherji. “We’re past the point of the public tolerating a second class of citizens when it comes to married couples… When you look up the laws of our state it still reflects language that would result in the children of same-sex marriages being treated differently that could result in same sex couples being stigmatized and New Jersey, being a diverse tolerant state, New Jersey is the last place that should be living with antiquated, discriminatory marriage status.”

LGBTQ+ advocates have protested a previous bill surrounding same-sex marriage because it included specific exemptions for religions institutions to deny same-sex marriages. The earlier bill states that no religious institutions and groups “shall be compelled to provide space, services, advantages, goods, or privileges related to” any marriage that is against their beliefs. This would protect the institutions and groups from lawsuits. The New Jersey Senate scratched the bill and has not acted on it since.

The bill that was passed last week did not include exemptions for religious groups and institutions.

Anti-LGBTQ activist and self-proclaimed “ex-gay”, Rev. Gregory Quinlan was opposed to the bill. He stated: “No one is born gay. The science is zero. And so for that reason there is no justification to codify homosexual marriage or any of the sundry identities that have been put out over the last number of years,” Quinlan said.

After everything going on with the U.S. Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade, Senate President Steve Sweeney said, “If they can do that, same-sex marriage can be the next thing.”

Sweeney said it’s likely the bill will be approved this week when it goes to the upper house.

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