New Jersey legislators are waking up this morning to a clear message, signed by the people who get them elected, support their initiatives, provide both shoeleather and strategy, and fund their campaigns. The message: Bring marriage equality to a vote, and pass it. We’re tired of waiting, and this is no longer about the agitation of a minority gay population, advocating for their own rights. It hasn’t been for a long time. This is your foxhole buddies, your braintrust, and the backbone of your party, advising you to do the right thing.
This letter has been signed by more than 200 influential New Jersey Democrats, including Members of Congress Rush Holt, Steve Rothman, and Frank Pallone, Mayor Cory Booker, and many elected officials. Here is the letter:
An Open Letter Calling on Democratic Legislators to Post Marriage Equality Legislation for a Vote
We believe that equality and fairness are fundamental principles of New Jersey’s Democratic Party, and that is why we call on the state legislature to vote immediately on, and pass, the marriage equality bill.
New Jersey has a proud history of supporting civil rights. It was this legacy that encouraged many of us to become involved in politics. We believe that allowing committed gay and lesbian couples to marry is, at its core, about treating our family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors with dignity and respect.
We appreciate that this is a difficult issue for some state legislators. But marriage equality is an idea whose time has come. We are confident that the voters will stand by those elected officials who do the right thing.
When our children and grandchildren look back on this moment, we want to be able to tell them that we, too, did the right thing.
As Martin Luther King poignantly reminded us, “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” That is why we’re proud to lend our names and our voices to this important cause. We do so in our capacity as private citizens and Democratic voters, and not on behalf of any particular office or organization.
If you would like to add your name, we invite you to do so now, here on line. A full list of signers – including Blue Jersey writers – is below the fold.
Quite a few legislators must already know this letter was coming. It has been quietly circulated by a now-larger group of people, and in some cases legislators will open the door to their offices to find their own staff have signed on. A buzz about this letter has been growing for days, as Democratic stalwarts sign on and help circulate.
The letter represents a grass roots effort within the party amid a sense of frustration that Democratic lawmakers are being tempted to back away from a vote on the bills, even as outgoing Democratic Governor Jon S. Corzine said he would sign into law marriage equality legislation as soon as lawmakers sent the bill to his desk.
Gently written, and evocative of past civil rights struggles though it is, the meta-messages it carries are deadly clear: Do not underestimate where your friends are on this issue. Do not underestimate that the muscle of your party demands a vote, and expects marriage equality to pass, in this legislature dominated by Democrats. And understand that if you vote for what you know is right, do not underestimate how strongly we will stand behind you. And look at the list: This is a civil rights issue for us, an issue of fairness. Both straight and gay people signed.
“A lot of us are feeling let down, especially younger Democrats,” said Ronald C. Rice, a member of the Newark City Council. “We sense there is an enthusiasm gap in Democratic support for this legislation, and we are asking Democrats to live up to the mandate set for them by their own party.”
List of signers, to date
Ravinder S. Bhalla
Angelo J. Genova
Steven W. Kleinman
Orin S. Kramer
James W. Manning, Jr.
Rocco A. Mazza
Raymond J. McCarthy
Rob Menendez, Jr.
Neil Mullin, Esq.
Jim C. Peeler
Braxton J. Plummer
Ronald C. Rice
Keith M. Rosso
John C. Schwebel
Nancy Erika Smith
Rosanna J. Tangorra
Earl Thomas Teasley
Harry Zikas, Jr.