As Expected, Narrow Vote Of 7 To 6
After a late start, over seven hours of impassioned speeches from citizens, clergy, scientists, psychologists, and members of the LGBTQ and straight communities, late tonight the New Jersey State Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of moving the gay marriage bill forward. The full Senate will vote on the bill on Thursday.
Most of the testimony was in favor of the bill, including an overwhelming number of members of the clergy from many different religious orders. Literally hundreds of citizens signed up to speak to the committee, and over one hundred fifty were able to present their views.
The first speaker was legendary civil rights activist and current NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, who spoke for almost eight minutes in favor of same sex marriage. (You can hear Bond’s entire testimony here.) Bond reminded the committee that Mildred Loving, whose case (Loving vs. Virginia) before the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for interracial couples to marry, fully supported gay marriage.
As Chair of the NAACP, the largest and oldest African-American organization, Bond’s statement, “I believe gay rights are civil rights,” has tremendous meaning. He spoke of Coretta Scott King, and equal protection for all. “Black people, of all people, should not oppose equality, and that is what gay marriage represents.” He continued, “At best, civil unions are separate but equal, and we all know separate is not equal.”
Bond eloquently stated that “Gay and lesbian rights are not ‘special rights.’”
Some of the speakers before the committee spoke of religious concerns, and quoted the bible as reason to oppose marriage equality. However, one speaker, a rabbi, pointed out that “polygamy, child molestation, divorce, rape, are all sanctioned In bible,” but that “times change.” He told the committee that in the bible “there is no mandate to discriminate against same sex couples.”
Other testimony included a mother and her son, a sixteen-year old high school student who related the taunting and verbal abuse he receives every day he goes to school. One of the Senators called him “a hero,” another called him “a role model,” and said his testimony was his “favorite.” Later, one senator used the sixteen year old’s testimony to rebut the statement of a “teaparty mom” who stated her feeling that a laminated durable power of attorney was a good substitute for a marriage certificate.
Another mother, who has three sons, one of whom is gay, asked the committee to come to her home – “I’m a good host – I’ll bake you cookies,” and tell her gay son that “he’s not good enough.”
As in other states, lawmakers took extreme measures to ensure that “religious protections” were included in the bill. Those concerns were debated to include anyone with a “conscientious objection” against same sex marriage – in other words, protections for people offering wedding services – and will be included in the bill presented before the full Senate.
The debate included issues of hospital visitation, insurance, estate planning and wills, and the problems with the term “civil union.” Senator Cardinale brought up the “unintended consequences” of gay marriage – although what those were specifically were unclear. Earlier, he accused a representative of the state bar association of lying, but of “not lying effectively.”
Members voting “yes” included Republican Bill Baroni, who received thunderous applause from the audience. Also voting yes were Senators Weinberg, Gill, Lezniak, Stack, Scutari, Smith.
Voting no were Cardinale, Beck, Kyrillos, Beck, Girgenti, Sarlo.
Yet to be decided, however, is if and when the New Jersey Assembly will vote upon the bill. If it does not before end of the year, Governor Corzine will not be in office to sign it, and incoming Republican Governor Christie has made clear he will veto the bill.
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