A new broad-based coalition of the nation’s top civil rights organizations officially launched today with one goal: convincing New Jersey lawmakers to override Governor Chris Christie‘s veto of same-sex marriage legislation that passed both chambers in February of 2012. Lawmakers have until the end of this legislative session, January 10, 2014, to override the veto of their Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act.
A March poll found 64 percent of New Jersey residents support extending the institution of marriage to same-sex couples, and only 30 percent opposed, making New Jersey the most LGBT-friendly state in the nation that does not have marriage equality — and making it clear Republican Governor Christie is opposing the will of the people. Christie is likely looking at a 2016 run for the White House, and supporting same-sex marriage would turn away evangelical voters, although the majority of the country, 55 percent, supports same-sex marriage.
The group, New Jersey United for Marriage, kicked off their announcement today with a rally in Asbury Park, a vey LGBT-friendly town on the Jersey Shore.
Heavy-hitting state and national groups have already joined as New Jersey United for Marriage’s lead partners, including Garden State Equality, the American Civil Liberties Union of NJ, American Unity Fund, Freedom to Marry, Gill Action Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, and Lambda Legal.
New Jersey United for Marriage promises to “broaden the existing coalition of supporters to engage new groups, including Main Street businesses, large corporate employers, industry organizations and Republicans.”
“With federal protections now available thanks to the removal of DOMA’s ‘gay exception,’ Governor Christie’s veto is costing New Jersey families very real protections that only marriage provides,” Richard Carlbom, director of state campaigns at Freedom to Marry said in a statement after the rally. “This new, broad-based campaign brings the best of the movement to the important task of ensuring that loving and committed New Jersey couples, who deserve to be treated just like all other Americans, no longer have to cross the river to get married and have their marriages respected.”
“Today’s announcement is a game-changer. Over the past decade, Garden State Equality has moved public opinion from minority to majority support for marriage,” said Troy Stevenson, Executive Director of Garden State Equality in a press release. “With over 60 percent of New Jerseyans supporting marriage equality, we are in the last leg of a marathon race and are inviting everyone to run the last mile with us.”
“The issue at hand is simple,” said Jeff Cook-McCormac, Senior Advisor to American Unity Fund. “We’re here because we believe that it’s not government’s proper role to interfere with someone’s happiness. Government must not limit our freedoms, including our freedom to marry the person we love.”
“Today, we are proud to stand with our state and national partners to bring marriage equality over the finish line. The striking down of DOMA by the Supreme Court changed the landscape for marriage equality, and New Jersey is now the epicenter of the next big fight,” said Udi Ofer, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “The inequality between New Jersey and our neighbors, like New York and Delaware, is now more pronounced than ever. With DOMA struck down, the term civil union is preventing New Jersey’s LGBT couples from being eligible for hundreds of federal benefits, such as Social Security, tax and medical benefits. New Jersey’s separate and unequal civil union system must end, and New Jersey’s LGBT couples must be treated with the same dignity and respect as all other couples.”
“As an organization that has been fighting in court for over 10 years for New Jersey same-sex couples to marry, Lambda Legal is proud to be a part of this coalition and will work with our partners to pursue all roads to justice,” said Leslie Gabel-Brett, Director of Education and Public Affairs for Lambda Legal.
“We all want the protections and responsibilities of marriage: the ability to raise our children free of government intrusion, access to health care, meaningful retirement security and the right to care for a sick spouse without fear of losing a job or health insurance,” said Marty Rouse, National Field Director Human Rights Campaign.
Image, top: NJ resident and LGBT activist Sue Fulton at the podium, with her wife Penny, at today’s kick-off rally. Photo by NJ United for Marriage via Twitter
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