Today, New Jersey became the third state in American history to pass a marriage equality bill under a Governor hostile to marriage equality. The Assembly passed the bill 42 to 33, following Monday’s passage in the Senate 24 to 16. With Governor Chris Christie certain to veto the bill quickly, Garden State Equality now begins its campaign to override the veto. The legislature has until the end of this legislative session, January 2014, to do so.
Here’s the statement I made at our news conference immediately after today’s Assembly vote:
Since Stonewall, we have been on a 40-year journey toward our freedom. Today, the legislature has brought us to the edge of the promised land. We know the Governor won’t let us enter, but we finally behold the view of our dreams and we will never turn back.
Today’s milestone came in the face of some of the toughest obstacles in the history of the marriage equality movement. Instead of a Governor twisting arms on our behalf, we have a Governor who twisted arms against us right up until the final votes in each chamber. And Garden State Equality’s budget was one-tenth of what it was two years ago.
But we had the people and the passion. We also had the greatest legislative leaders. They include the bill’s longtime prime sponsors, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Senator Raymond Lesniak and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, as well as Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green, and Democratic Party Chair Assemblyman John Wisniewski. We thank the unsung heroes of the legislative process – the legislative staff, especially the Assembly Majority and Senate Majority staff.
We are exuberant advocates but also methodical strategists. To win an override, we will take the time we need, assisted by a changing world. Look how the world changed since the last vote two years ago. We have until the end of the legislative session, January 2014. The key is winning.
We could not have achieved this milestone without our partner organizations. Freedom to Marry was the national linchpin that never stopped believing in Garden State Equality, not even after our profound disappointment two years ago, and made this milestone possible.
The Human Rights Campaign lent us a spectacular field director and was invaluable and gracious at every juncture. The ACLU, The Task Force and Marriage Equality NY/USA gave us additional power. Our sisters and brothers in labor, especially the Communications Workers of America, have been relentless fighters by our side. Our state’s progressive blog, Blue Jersey, has been an unsurpassed voice for justice.
And once again, we thank our spectacular lobbying firm, the Kaufman Zita Group, including Jeannine LaRue, Tom Wilson, Adam Kaufman and Trish Zita. They are second to none.
Pursuing all roads to justice, Garden State Equality and seven-same sex couples will continue our lawsuit for marriage equality, where we are represented by Lambda Legal and the nationally renowned Gibbons law firm. With this victory, the courts will see the legislature’s clear intent to replace the state’s failed civil union law with marriage equality.