New Jersey lawmakers gave their blessing to legalizing gay marriage for the first time Monday as the state Senate passed a bill that would allow nuptials for same-sex couples, despite Gov. Chris Christie’s insistence that he will veto such legislation.
The Senate’s 24-16 vote sends the bill to the Assembly, which is expected to pass it on Thursday.
Monday’s vote contrasts with the only other gay-marriage vote taken in the Legislature. In January 2010, gay marriage supporters thought they had built a narrow majority in the Senate, but senators began to defect, and the measure was defeated 20-14. Since then, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat from West Deptford, has changed his position. He says he regrets abstaining two years ago and has made gay marriage recognition a top priority.
Six states and Washington, D.C., allow gay marriage, and Washington state will be added to that list when Gov. Christine Gregoire signs legislation legalizing same-sex marriage Monday.
Christie, a Republican, announced his veto intentions last month. He has said he does not believe marriage laws should be changed but does support New Jersey’s civil union law, which grants gay couples the legal protections of marriage.
Christie said he wants to put a change in the definition of marriage to a public vote.
But gay rights groups oppose a referendum. They see gay marriage as a civil rights matter and argue that it should not be up to the masses to protect the rights of a minority group. They also believe that a nasty campaign from social conservatives could erode the narrow majority of support that public polls show gay marriage has in New Jersey.