Gay Marriage in New Jersey: Still on Hold

Marriage equality activists in New Jersey are hoping to get hundreds of protesters to rally in Trenton today, even though it is 20 degrees out and the first work day after the holidays. Regardless, their hopes for getting a marriage equality bill to Governor Corzine before he leaves office are looking increasingly dim. As of today, there are 120 bills left for the current New Jersey legislature to consider in the next two weeks, and the Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act is not scheduled to be one of them.

Once Chris Christie was elected, gay marriage supporters knew they had to pass legislation before his inauguration, or wait until at least 2014 for their next possible shot at getting a bill signed into law. Apparently, the chance to go many years without being on the record is proving irresistible to New Jersey legislators, where Democrats hold majorities in both houses, but they can't seem to get their act together to get a floor vote in either one (sound familiar?)

In early December, New Jersey's marriage equality bill successfully made it out of a crucial senate committee, earning at least one republican vote in the process. However, the New Jersey Senate then declined to take the bill up on their floor. The Democratic leadership feared not having the votes of the full Senate, and wanted to earn support in the Assembly first before proceeding.

The bill has now stalled in both legislative houses, and the buck-passing antics between the two houses is now mirroring the dysfunction of New York's own legislature in putting off an up-or-down marriage vote for as long as possible. The Senate won't take up the bill until it sees unwavering support for it in the house. But the Speaker of the Assembly says he'll take an up-or-down vote only if the Senate passes it first. With only two weeks left in the session, it looks unlikely that either house will have the guts to go on the record first, preferring to play chicken instead.

If gays and lesbians in the tri-state area can't get married in New York or New Jersey, there's still Connecticut, at least. And, it appears, not only does Congress seem likely to let D.C.'s marriage law stand, but that the District will be able to perform marriages for non-residents.


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