UPDATED WITH ADDITIONAL VOTE TALLY DATA, QUOTES AND STATISTICAL INFORMATION.
The New Jersey Senate passed a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples on a 24 to 16 vote today. The bill now heads to the Assembly for a 1 p.m. vote on Thursday.
The Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act was given the legislative bill number S1, a symbolic nod to the high priority that the Democratic-controlled legislature was giving to the effort. Two Republicans joined 22 Democrats in voting for the bill, while on the other side, two Democrats voted with 14 Republicans in the negative.
The bill, which Gov. Chris Christie has pledged to veto, required 21 votes to pass.
“I’m thrilled to see the New Jersey State Senate dramatically reverse its course of just a few years ago and vote to bring the freedom to marry to thousands of loving and committed New Jersey couples,” Freedom to Marry COO and South Orange resident Scott Davenport told the Blade on Monday. “I believe as more and more gay and lesbian headed families tell their stories to their friends, neighbors and legislators about why marriage matters to them that we will see at least three more hearts and minds changed in the state Senate.”
Garden State Equality board member and BlueJersey.com editor Rosi Efthim is nervous about Thursday’s Assembly vote, but is optimistic about the bill’s eventual success.
“If it passes both houses, we expect Gov. Christie’s veto, but would have until the end of the legislative session [January 2014] to override,” Efthim told the Blade, Monday.
The Democratic National Committee’s first transgender member, and New Jersey resident Babs Siperstein believes the bill will pass in the Assembly on Thursday, and thinks veto override is a good possibility.
“There is a chance for victory, and there is obviously a lot more work to be done,” Siperstein told the Blade. “There is a window of opportunity with a number of political variables, but I believe it can be done.”
In January, Christie elicited praise from LGBT activists in the Garden State when he nominated an openly gay man to the New Jersey Supreme Court, Bruce Harris, the gay African-American mayor of Chatham Borough N.J. But activists were disappointed when Christie reaffirmed his pledge to veto a marriage bill that same week.
In Sunday’s New York Times, editors took Christie to task for his vow to veto the bill, calling his threat to block the effort “not only disgraceful, but against the tide of history.”
University of California Los Angeles-based LGBT think tank, the Williams Institute, estimates that 16,875 same-sex couples live in New Jersey, with nearly 3,000 of those couples raising an estimated 6,650 total children. New Jersey is likely to generate $48 to $119 million for the state economy in same-sex wedding-related business if the bill passes, according to the think tank. It said that 4,447 of the nearly 17,000 same-sex couples in the Garden State already identify one another as “spouses.”
On Jan. 7, 2010, a bill calling for the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples failed in the New Jersey Senate on a vote of 14-20. Senate leadership has since become much more involved in pressuring the chamber in favor of the bill, with a greater emphasis on lobbying the 24 Democrats and 16 Republicans than ever before.
The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Sen. Raymond Lesniak, and Senate President Steve Sweeney, all Democrats.
While the Senate bill passed by 8 votes today, both houses will need to raise two-thirds majority support to overcome Christie’s threatened veto. In the Senate, supporters of the bill will need an additional 3 votes to reach the 27 vote threshold.
This story is still developing please return to WashingtonBlade.com for continued updates.