A Star-Ledger editorial today says, “It is time to call Gov. Chris Christie’s bluff on gay rights. He vetoed a bill on marriage equality earlier this year, denying a basic human right to thousands of New Jersey couples and their children with a stroke of his pen. it’s time for the Legislature to make its move and put the question on the ballot in 2013.”
I don’t think that a civil rights matter like marriage equality should be a ballot issue. However if there were an ideal time to put the matter to popular vote it would have been during the just concluded elections when in NJ President Obama beat Mitt Romney by 16.9 points, U. S. Sen. Robert Menendez beat State Sen. Joe Kyrillos by 18.5 points, and when M. E. opponent Christie spent so much time out of state. For the matter to be on the ballot next year without a presidential or senatorial election would be less than ideal. Presumably Christie will then be in high-gear campaign mode, speak out against M. E., and not want the embarrassment of having M. E. approved under his watch.
The need now is to get sufficient votes in the Senate and Assembly to overturn Christie’s veto. The Senate passed the measure 24-16 with two Republican votes, Sen. Jennifer Beck (Monmouth) and Sen. Diane Allen (Burlington) in support and with two Democrats, Sen. Ronald Rice (Essex) and Sen. Jeff Van Drew (Cape May) in opposition. The Senate needs 27 votes to override the Governor. The Assembly passed the measure 42-33 with no Republican votes and with two Democrats, Nelson Albano and Matthew Milam, both from Cape May, who voted against the measure. The Assembly needs 54 votes to override the veto.
It is up to legislative leadership and advocates to convince a few Republican Senators and Assemblypersons, as well as recalcitrant Democrat nay-sayers, to join the effort. The Senate may already have the needed votes, but there is less certainty in the Assembly. The legislature has until early January 2014 to gain needed support and to schedule a veto override vote. It is also possible that by then or shortly thereafter the New Jersey Supreme Court may rule favorably on the matter. Efforts now at both a legislative override and a favorable NJ Supreme Court ruling are being pursued. It’s not the time now to call for a public ballot vote.