NJ Keeps Close Watch On Gay Marriage Cases [POLL/AUDIO]
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman.
How the court rules could shape how the country defines marriage and family.
New Jersey lawmakers who support gay marriage are watching the case closely, but not sitting idly by.
Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the Garden State.
Democrats have been unsuccessful in every veto override attempt since Christie took office, but they're ready to give it another shot.
"We've already tried it legislatively and the Governor vetoed that option," says Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a prime sponsor of the gay marriage bill. "By all means, we should put it up for a veto override."
The State Senate requires 27 votes, while 54 is required in the General Assembly to override a Governor's veto. That means three Republicans in the Upper House and six in the People's House would have vote in favor of the override. That would be history making under Christie.
Christie Wants Question on the Ballot
Republican lawmakers have always voted in lockstep with Christie on veto override tries, but because the Governor supports asking the voters to decide the gay marriage issue in a ballot question, GOP legislators could support that strategy without fear of political retribution.
It would take 48 votes in the Assembly and 24 in the Senate to place a question on this November's ballot.
"There are Republicans who strongly support gay marriage," explains Gusciora. "Then there are others that may not necessarily agree with marriage equality, but they would not stand in the way of a ballot initiative…All things should be on the table including a ballot measure….I would hope that the legislature would put the ballot issue up for a vote in November."
In order for the Senate to approve a resolution to put the question on the ballot, it would have to be posted for a vote. There's the rub. Senate President Steve Sweeney opposes that option, at least for now.
"We have an override option," explains Sweeney. "We have the court cases before the courts (U.S. Supreme Court and the New Jersey Supreme Court) and as far as I'm concerned, a ballot initiative would be the absolute last resort. Hopefully we will be successful (in the override attempt) because civil rights does not belong on a ballot."
Sweeney continues, "Again, there are options. The first one is an override. The second one is the court case and then we can talk about a referendum if necessary."
Sweeney feels if lawmakers knew they had the easy out of voting for the ballot question, they would be far less likely to support the veto override attempt.
High Court Case
Yesterday, during arguments on California's ban on gay marriage, several justices raised doubts about whether the case should even be before them.
It is possible the case could be dismissed with the High Court issuing a ruling. The High Court heard oral arguments in the case popularly known as the 'Proposition 8' case.
"The issues addressed in the California case are nearly identical to the issues we face here in New Jersey under the discriminatory civil unions law," says Troy Stevenson, Garden State Equality CEO. "Having seen first-hand the damage caused to couples by marriage inequality in New Jersey, we felt it appropriate and important to share our experience with the Court."
The Obama Administration's position has been called the "eight-state solution," because it would apply to California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island -- the states that currently have "domestic partnerships" or "civil unions" separate from equal marriage for same-sex couples.
The Obama administration's Solicitor General argued the position that separate and unequal "civil union" or "domestic partnership" systems for same sex couples are in violation of the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
If their argument prevails, it could extend marriage equality to New Jersey.
Latest Poll Numbers On Gay Marriage In NJ
A Quinnipiac University survey released yesterday shows, by a 64 - 30 percent margin, New Jersey voters support a law allowing same sex couples to marry. Men support same-sex marriage 60 - 32 percent, with a larger 68 - 28 percent support among women. Voters say 72 - 22 percent it's a good idea to decide the same-sex marriage issue by referendum on the November ballot.