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New Jersey Assembly passes marriage bill, 42-33

Gov. Christie promises to veto

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, gay news, gay politics dc

While marriage advocates are optimistic, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has vowed to veto the bill. (Photo by Walter Burns via Wikimedia Commons)

The New Jersey state Assembly passed a bill extending marriage rights to same-sex couples on Thursday, after the Senate approved the measure earlier in the week.

At 4:45 p.m. the Assembly voted to pass the bill by a narrow 42-33, giving it just enough votes to pass out of the 80 member chamber, but not enough to overcome a promised veto by Gov. Chris Christie. The tally was initially announced as a 41-33 vote with one abstention, but shortly after the vote, the tally was updated, with the error blamed on a “stuck button,” according to one source who was in the State House at the time.

“I think it’s a giant step forward,” said Marc Solomon, Freedom to Marry’s national campaign director. “The Senate in New Jersey voted two years ago and defeated a marriage bill pretty overwhelmingly, and now today passed in the Senate and the Assembly… and that is a significant step forward.”

In what was expected to be a close vote on Monday, the New Jersey Senate handily passed the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act — known as S1 — by a 24-16 margin.

In order to overcome a veto, the Senate will need to find an additional three votes in favor, as a two-thirds majority of the 40-member chamber is 27. In the 80-member New Jersey General Assembly, 54 votes in favor would be needed to overcome a governor’s veto, which leaves marriage supporters with the job of flipping or finding 12 additional votes in that chamber in 23 months.

The legislature would have until the end of this legislative session on Jan. 18, 2014 to override Christie’s veto. Advocates are cautiously optimistic that this is possible.

Sources at the vote report only Democrats voted in favor of the bill in New Jersey, after heavy campaigning from the governor.

“It still passed with not just the aversion of the governor, but with the active arm twisting of the governor to get Republicans to vote against the bill,” Solomon told the Blade minutes after the Thursday afternoon vote. “There are Republicans who support the freedom to marry in the Assembly, but unfortunately the governor really twisted arms.”

Cristie has advocated in favor of taking the question to voters through a ballot measure, something that has angered LGBT advocates and civil rights veterans alike. Last month Georgia Congressman John Lewis lashed out at Christie for a statement he made implying that civil rights leaders would have rather had civil rights issues sent to popular vote rather than making advances through legislation and litigation.

ThinkProgress reports that after she signed a bill legalizing gender neutral marriage in Washington, Gov. Christine Gregoire sent a letter to Christie encouraging him to do the same.

“If two men want to fall in love and get married, or two women, it’s their business,” said Lewis, according to the Advocate. “It’s not the role of the federal government or the state government to intervene. It’s a question of human dignity, a question of human rights. I think the day will come in New Jersey and all across our country when we will look back on this period and say, ‘We were just silly. We were just foolish.'”

Same-sex marriage activists, including Solomon, believe there is time to move lawmakers to their side by presenting them with compelling stories from real couples affected by legal discrimination.

“We will sit down immediately and look at the lists and see who the persuadable lawmakers are,” Solomon said. “My own experience is as we put forward the really smart field effort to mobilize married couples who deserve to get married and share their stories with lawmakers, we’re going to get those lawmakers.”

“People only move one way on this issue, and it’s our way.”

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.

 

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Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”

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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 

 

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Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

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Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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Conservative groups attack proposed Alabama capital city’s LGBTQ law

Allege law requires Christians to violate their religious beliefs

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Alabama State Capitol, HIV, gay news, Washington Blade
Alabama State Capitol (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama capital’s City Council is being urged to reject a proposed ordinance that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under the law.  Matthew Clark, the Executive Director of the conservative Alabama Center for Law and Liberty sent a letter on behalf of his group and six allied organizations asking the Council to abandon a vote implementing the ordnance.

According to the letter, the groups allege that the law would require Christians to violate their religious beliefs or face fines under certain circumstances. Prominent among the other signatures is Mathew D. Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group.

The SPLC, which has its headquarters in Montgomery, writes; “The Liberty Counsel has also been active in the battle against same-sex marriage and hate crimes legislation, which it claimed in a 2007 news release to be “’thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience” and will “have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior.” In that same release, the Liberty Counsel falsely claimed that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo., had nothing to do with homosexuality, but instead was “a bungled robbery.”

In the letter Clark noted; ““As we read the ordinance, churches could be fined if they refuse to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, and they might be fined if they refused to let same-sex couples use their facilities for weddings,” Clark said. “They could also be fined if they declined to hire non-ministerial personnel, such as facility managers or secretaries, whose sexual orientation or gender identity contradicts the tenants of the church’s faith.”

“Christian schools, small business owners, and homeowners are also in the crosshairs. Schools could face liability if they decline to let transgender students use the locker rooms of their choice,” Clark said. “Small business owners like Jack Phillips [referring to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission] could face liability. And homeowners who list their homes on Airbnb could be fined if they declined to let a same-sex couple engage in sexual activities in their home that violate the tenants of their faith.”

Clark then warned the City Council that if it passes the ordinance, litigation could result and the City would likely lose.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported last month that City Mayor Steven Reed said a council vote in favor of the LGTBQ nondiscrimination ordinance that’s now being drafted in Montgomery would send a message. 

“There are signals that communities can send, and this is an important signal not only to those residents that live here right now but people all over the country that have maybe one idea of Alabama and Montgomery, and we want to show them that there’s a different reality here,” he said. 

Reed and his team have been working with the Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy groups to draft an ordinance that would expand protections for LGBTQ residents in the state’s capital city. The proposed measure, which would specifically target discrimination in government, employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity the Advertiser reported.

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