It has been one year since Governor Christie vetoed the marriage equality legislation. Since then, we have watched as families in Maine, Maryland and Washington rightfully receive equality as New Jersey has continued to treat our families as second class citizens. We have come a long way since the first attempt to pass marriage equality in 2010. Our legislative leaders fought for and delivered an affirmative vote for marriage equality in both houses of the legislature. These leaders include Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Majority Leaders Loretta Weinberg and Lou Greenwald, four people to whom we are grateful to for fighting for LGBT families across our state. There are many others for our cause: Democratic prime sponsors Senator Ray Lesniak and Assemblymembers Connie Wagner, John McKeon, and Ruben Ramos; Republican co-sponsor Senator Jennifer Beck and Republican “yes” vote Senator Diane Allen; and the many legislators who balanced religious concerns with ensuring equal protection for the LGBT community. Also, former Senate President Dick Codey and Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts deserve special recognition for their determination and leadership to get us to this point.
Obviously, legislators have not been the only ones fighting to move marriage equality to the front burner to demand our community be recognized on the same playing field. We have many supporters advocating on our behalf throughout the state. We also acknowledge the hard work of Garden State Equality (GSE) under the leadership of Troy Stevenson and his executive board, as well as the hundreds of members and volunteers who have emerged as a determined voice on behalf of the LGBT community. GSEs advocacy has helped persuade recalcitrant legislators that doing the right thing on marriage equality is very mainstream. They have helped move public opinion to a point that a solid majority of New Jerseyans believe marriage equality for gays and lesbians is not a threat to the institution of marriage. In this regard, in the coming weeks, we will be collaborating with the various stakeholders in anticipation of the veto-override vote so we can look forward to New Jersey becoming the next state to recognize marriage equality for all committed couples in its borders and over the next few weeks you will begin to see an even bigger presence of marriage equality advocates across New Jersey. Our movement is becoming more unified and more cohesive as days pass.
Finally, we want to be perfectly clear that a marriage ballot initiative is our last resort. We will lead the fight in the legislature for an override of the Governors veto and do everything in our power to succeed. We recognize that the state and federal courts will soon visit the issue, but to wait for another branch of government to act would be presumptuous. We have no doubt that GSE and its countless allies will rise up to the challenge to engage in a public discourse on civil rights no matter how we achieve equality. We will use every tool available to us as we move forward together to make New Jersey a fair and equal state to live in for all families. After all, civil rights delayed, is civil rights denied. In this regard, we look forward to the challenges and in the partnerships for those who believe in this just cause.
Reed Gusciora & Tim Eustace