State Senate Marriage Equality Liveblog

bumped back up–the debate is starting. (clammyc)

Today the State Senate is scheduled to debate and vote on S1967, the marriage equality bill. Live video can be found here, now that the session is underway. The calendar is pretty packed today, with six nominations and over fifty bills scheduled for a vote.

Final Tally of Marriage Equality bill in the NJ Senate


Unless the NJ Supreme Court grows a spine, gay people must wait until at least 2014 to get married in New Jersey.

The play-by-play of the Senate debate is below the fold.

4:37 And the vote begins…

4:36 Senator Weinberg will “wind up.” She thanks the Senators for the level of debate, discord, respect and civility.

4:34 Sandra Cunningham of Jersey City tells the Senate she is the descendant of slaves, and adds, “I cannot in good conscience oppose anyone’s right to fight to be treated with dignity and respect.”

4:31 Senator Teresa Ruiz of Newark, the first Latina to serve in the State Senate, recalls her own personal experience with being “the other” and says she doesn’t ever want to take a vote that says, “it’s okay for me, but not for you.”

4:30 Senator Gordon quotes Federalist #51: “It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.”

4:28 Senator Gill is finished speaking. Senator Bob Gordon of Bergen County rejects the idea of holding civil rights to a popular vote. Gordon asks, “would we have granted women the right to vote in 1919 if the issue had been put to a referendum? I think not.” Indeed, New Jersey voted against women’s suffrage in a 1915 popular referendum.

4:25 Somebody who has been a key player for the marriage equality side just IM’d me saying that the buzz is that Codey has been strongtly working behind the scenes today “and codey rarely loses on legislation.” Well, we’ll see. – Rosi

4:24 Senator Gill is still speaking. “There’s never been a civil rights vote that has been easy. Because in granting another person a civil right, we must reach bast our level of comfort.”

4:21 Senator Gill is still speaking.

4:16 Senator Gill is still speaking.

4:09 Nia Gill (D-Montclair) says the definition of marriage has changed as recently as 1967.

4:08 When Buono recited the last words of the Pledge of Allegiance a huge ovation in this room. During the pledge before the session began, people here stood and then shouted the last line: Liberty and justice for all. For all! – It’s like she heard us. Rosi

4:06 Barbara Buono (D-Edison) asks her colleagues to “cast a vote in favor of liberty and justice for all.”

4:04 Girgenti (D-Passaic County): “The way of life is much reduced.” That didn’t make any sense either. He wants a referendum.

4:04 Girgenti is up. Jeff Gardner for State Senate. – Rosi

4:02 Kean: Gay people are so wonderful to live next to, but I can’t vote for this bill because I’ve been threatened with a primary challenge. That makes lots of sense.

3:57 Sean Kean, a Republican from coastal Monmouth County, disagrees with Doherty, saying that legislators were elected to make tough decisions like this. Kean gives gays credit for pushing drug dealers out of Asbury Park, and admits he probably has “the gayest district in the state.”

3:53 Senator Cardinale concludes, and the few opponents in the crowd clap loudly. Next up is Mike Doherty, a far, far-right wing Republican from rural Warren County. He takes the opportunity to bitch about Abbott (a State Supreme Court school funding decision) and Mount Laurel (a State Supreme Court affordable housing decision). Doherty is a raging homophobe, so don’t believe him when he says “it’s about the process.”

3:50 The anti-equality folks seem to be wearing Nancy Reagan red today, male and female. Now that Sen. Cardinale is speaking, they’re not shrinking into the corners of this annex overflow room anymore. Just applauded wildly on the Senator’s “traditional marriage” line. I should point out to you that there are 4 of them, front row, and one – not in red of course but dressed traditionally – from the Hasidic community. 5 total, in a room of 80-90 – Rosi

3:46 Cardinale tells a joke about lawyers that one of the rabbis told about Jews during the hearing (3 people 4 opinions, except Cardinale made it 15). Cardinale says he voted against civil unions because it had deficiencies, and that it still has deficiencies and that they can be fixed, but he’s being disingenuous. He opposed the civil union bill because he didn’t want any recognition for same-sex couples.

3:44 Baroni exhorts his colleagues to “Stand for fairness, stand for love, vote for marriage.” His eloquent speech is met with enthusiastic, but brief applause.

3:39 Baroni tells the Senate about Marsha and Louise, who “lived the vows of in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. They have a love that most of us can only dream about…but they can never be truly equal” because they cannot get married.” Then he tells about his grandmother and grandfather, who lived into their ’90s: “I watched on that last night as my grandmother, 93 years old, having been married for 63 years, and my grandfather, then 88 years old. I watched as he held her hand, gently stroked it, checked on her, talked to her, comforted her, helped her carry over to her great reward. And that moment, when I looked at that, I said ‘that’s it, that’s love.'”

3:35 Paraphrasing, “It’s almost like there is a place, a place called marriage, and government is standing between that place and people, deciding who gets to go through that door, and who doesn’t”

3:32 Baroni addresses the two chief objections he hears from opponents: that marriage eqaulity would restrict religious freedom, and, as he (perhaps mockingly?) puts it, “Can’t we just fix civil unions.” Baroni points out that the amendment he offered protected not only churches, but all religious organizations, and that the state can’t fix the ERISA loophole.

3:31 Bill Baroni, the only republican to vote for marriage equality in the judiciary committee, is speaking.

Cardinale, Doherty, Kean (not sure which one), Girgenti, Buono.

3:30 Lesniak tears up as he reads a letter from the brother of a gay man, who thanks lesniak “for standing up for his rights”.

3:28 Lesniak: “Marriage equality will take away that unequal treatment, and make us more compassionate, understanding, and loving. …Today I will take the opportunity to be compassionate, understanding and loving, by voting yes on marriage equality. But today is not about me. It is about the same-sex couples who have been treated unequally.”

3:27 Lesniak reads from an email he received from Michael Carroll who wondered “why the state’s should give a rat’s ‘patoot’ about love.”

3:24 Lesniak argues that voting against the bill would be voting against the religious freedom of the 120 religious leaders who sent his office a letter supporting marriage equality.

3:22 Lesniak recalls Nia Gill’s speech and the testimony of Julian Bond in last month’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

3:19 Ray Lensiak, a veteran, is wearing his American flag tie today. “I was inspired to wear it by Senator Bateman,” who wore it on 12/7 to commemorate Pearl Harbor. Lesniak says he’s wearing in honor of the gay and lesbian soldiers who “had to hide their sexuality in order to fight for their country.”

3:18 Codey predicts that, if the bill fails, future New Jerseyans will look back on this legislature and ask, “What were they thinking? What were they afraid of?”

3:14 Codey remembers a baseball game he attended in Florida in the 1960s, where he saw signs that read “White” and “Colored” hung over the water fountains and the bathroom doors. “What were they thinking? What were they afraid of?”

3:10 Dick Codey says that this debate is about “marriage” and “equality.” He emphasizes that the definition of equality has evolved over the history of the nation; in the days of the founders, equality in the ballot box only went as far as property-owning white males. “What were they thinking? What were they afraid of?” he asks. Codey alludes to the days when “Irish need not apply” hung outside store windows, and the time when whites and blacks were free to marry, just as long as they did not marry each other.

3:08 and then Thoreau: “It is never too late to give up your prejudices.” Senate President Codey speaks next.

3:07 Weinberg closes first by quoting Harlan: “But in the view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.”

3:04 Weinberg, as she did in the judiciary committee, begins by talking about her marriage with her late husband. Weinberg: “To my colleagues who are wavering, do what your conscience tells you to do. Vote yes.” Weinberg emphasizes that, thanks to Senator Baroni’s amendment the bill will not restrict religious freedom.

3:01 If you’ve had enough suffering through the official nj legislature feed, then use the NJN feed instead.

2:59 Loretta Weinberg, the primary sponsor in the Senate, is speaking.

2:55 They are taking up the marriage equality bill now. The feed is absolute garbage.

2:46 It seems the feed decided to stop working. When it comes back, the Montclair State President is still speaking, and Codey interrupts, half-jokingly, “if I had known you were going to filibuster I wouldn’t have given you the mic.”

2:40Finally we’re underway. Of 40 sitting senators, 37 have shown up. Because of New Jersey’s idiotic rules, 21 is required for final passage of any bill, no matter how many members are present—or even seated. We start with a feel-good resolution honoring Montclair State University, “a beacon of the heights to which education can aspire.”

Among the other items on the agenda: two halfhearted but useful voter-registration bills, one of which adds a line for email address to the VR form, and the other of which forces high schools to give students a voter registration form with their diploma; a bill which would increase sentences for jury tampering; the formation of at least two task forces and commissions; and the nomination of outgoing Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts to the Rutgers University Board of Governors. There’s also a very good bill which would allow illegal immigrants who went to high school in New Jersey to qualify for in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities.

Comments (35)

  1. Adam L

    here as well.

    Session did not start yet…..

  2. tamamellie

    Been following the Marriage Equality coverage on this site after I stumbled onto it a month or so ago.  Have to say the site is WONDERFUL and really a great place to get the updates without having to read all the negative comments that come with other sites.

    It’s a long-shot, but I really hope the Senate comes through.

  3. Rosi Efthim

    Here in the overflow room in the statehouse annex, everybody stood to say the Pledge of Allegiance. At it’s end:

    With liberty and justice for all.

    “For all. For all!” is how the people in this room answered this.

  4. Adam L

    comes through clear.

  5. FogerRox
  6. Adam L

    to Steven Goldstein and GSE.

  7. FogerRox


  8. FogerRox

    That was heartfelt.

  9. Adam L

    do “violence to marriage”?

    what an asshole.

  10. FogerRox

    Lots of interest in this

  11. FogerRox
  12. FogerRox
  13. Michael Tracey

    Yes votes yet? What’s the tally?  

  14. Bertin Lefkovic

    …don’t complain when you cannot get “moderate” Republicans to do the right thing, because you clearly don’t understand how politics works.

    What should have been obvious to me months ago just struck me as an idea over the last few days, so I cannot get too angry at anyone else for not realizing that more work needed to be done on the ground to protect potential Republican Yes votes from the primary challenges that they would undoubtedly face if they voted for marriage equality.

    In my opinion, no less than 1,000 pro-marriage equality Democrats in Republican districts would have to pledge to change their party affiliation so that they could vote in a Republican primary for any of these Republicans to do the right thing in this political climate.

    Anybody who dismisses this fact when at the same time there are far too many Democrats who are not at risk of a primary challenge if they do the right thing, but who are still voting No, is doomed to watch this and any other issue of concern of theirs fail, because they think that battles like these can be won solely on the basis of who is right and who is wrong.

  15. Bertin Lefkovic

    What cowards!  I almost have more respect for those who voted No, although in the grand scheme of things, there really is no difference.

    The Democratic Party should be ashamed of itself today and if it doesn’t take the steps needed to kick these and other cowards out of “the big tent”, it will be up to the rank and file to do it for them.

  16. njguy99

    all call Beach, Sarlo and Sweeney’s offices right now. Ask why they were so afraid to take a stand.

  17. Michael Tracey

    trying to suck up to Sarlo, trying to appeal to his Catholic sensibilities, trying to encourage constituent interaction with him… and then he can’t even vote? This is a disillusioning day for politics.  

  18. Nick Lento

    …this is far far far from over, and I predict the opponents of this measure will have their careers shortened on the long run.   They are on the wrong side of history, of the law and of common human decency.

    We have to face the fact that AT THE CORE, the opposition to this basic human right is coming from a place of fear, a place of irrational prejudice and ignorance at best….and of a hateful bigotry at worst.

    What’s needed now is MASSIVE consciousness raising.    The opposition isn’t going away folks, they will be harping on this “issue” forever…..this is not the time to give up or to let go or to withdraw……this is the time to get REALLY motivated and to REALLY fight!!!  

    The progressive agenda needs to coalesce in such a way that we all move forward together, straight, LGBT whatever…we all deserve the same rights and that applies across the board in all areas of life and of commerce.

    Let’s make lemonade out of this sad and sour vote!


  19. Nick Lento

    …this is far far far from over, and I predict the opponents of this measure will have their careers shortened on the long run.   They are on the wrong side of history, of the law and of common human decency.

    We have to face the fact that AT THE CORE, the opposition to this basic human right is coming from a place of fear, a place of irrational prejudice and ignorance at best….and of a hateful bigotry at worst.

    What’s needed now is MASSIVE consciousness raising.    The opposition isn’t going away folks, they will be harping on this “issue” forever…..this is not the time to give up or to let go or to withdraw……this is the time to get REALLY motivated and to REALLY fight!!!  

    The progressive agenda needs to coalesce in such a way that we all move forward together, straight, LGBT whatever…we all deserve the same rights and that applies across the board in all areas of life and of commerce.

    Let’s make lemonade out of this sad and sour vote!


  20. Scott Weingart (Post author)

    Tell your friends about us! (-:

  21. tamamellie

    I have been passing the word to everyone!

  22. FogerRox
  23. Adam L

    yours as well.

  24. tamamellie

    Angry little dentist.

    Put it on a ballot like the other states.  Lead, don’t follow, and vote on minority rights.  Real great thinking there.

  25. denniscmcgrath

    A few posters here over the months and years have expressed great doubt that Bill Baroni would come through for us for marriage equality – I am delighted to see they were all wrong, wrong, wrong! THANK YOU SEN. BARONI!

  26. njguy99

    took my own advice. called Sarlo & Sweeney’s office, telling the people who answered how disgusted I was…and promising to do all I can to remove them from office.

    The poor legislative aides were quite taken aback. Which is a good thing.

    GSE told us not to get angry before. To be calm, work through the process. Well the process didn’t work and NOW we have every right to be angry.

  27. Scott Weingart (Post author)

    …because it was patent nonsense. He might as well have recited “Lorem Ipsum” or said “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” 100 times.

    At least with people like Cardinale and Doherty, there is some semblance of an argument to rebut.

  28. Thurman Hart

    with your sentiments…but kicking someone out for voting differently is kind of the opposite of having a big tent.

  29. FogerRox

    I guess its easy to be a coward.

  30. FogerRox
  31. Nick Lento

    …is required. Also a coalition.

    It’s great to be nice and “politic”, but some folks will just take you fro a ride and then turn on you when they think they can get a better deal (for example from Christ Christie).

    This is the problem with allowing machine politics to dominate our lives….they will ONLY do good things when they think it advances theor own personaql power and/or the wealth and power of their clients……..Beach, Sarlo and Sweeney are not (I dare say) ignorant hateful bigots…..the know what’s right, and they allowed this bill to fail because they wanted to suck up to Christie so they could advance their overriding machine$ political agenda$.  THAT’$ what this about folks!

    We progressives MUST coalesce and hang together.  We’ve been divided and conquered far too long.

  32. Nick Lento

    …to vote matters.

    It’s pretty clear that they are machine pols first and foremost and that they stabbed GSE in the back because they want to suck up to Republican Governor Christie so he will “work” with them in advancing the, essentially, corrupt machine politics agendas which they all share in various ways.  

    That is simply unprincipled and morally corrupt (the fact that these kinds of sleazy dealings are all LEGAL in NJ makes it all the more corrupt) and THAT’S why rachel’s dad is correct to call for their political heads.

    Unless decent progressive people in NJ unite along all party lines and coalesce in common cause, we will continue to be used and then rolled….divided and conquered.

  33. the pollster


    Every Dem who voted against ME or failed to even show up.


  34. FogerRox

    for all practical purposes does not exist. though if you allow your mind to become devious for a moment, there are better ways to handle things.

  35. Bertin Lefkovic

    If progressives can focus their short attention spans away from the midterm elections this year and focus on 2011, we have more than a year that could be dedicated towards recruiting primary candidates, organizing support around their campaigns, and raising money for them.

    Will that happen?  I am betting against it.


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