Tag Archive: Stephen Sweeney

The Difference Between Democrats and Republicans

Cross-posted from deciminyan.org

One of the signature accomplishments of the still-young session of the New Jersey legislative session has been the passage of a bill to ensure equal rights for married couples. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and General Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver assigned the bill number as S-1 and A-1, respectively, to emphasize the significance of this historic measure.

Yet, one of the main objections from the Republicans during the debate was that very fact. They whined that with the higher-than-average unemployment rate under the Christie administration, the legislature should not have been “wasting” its time on marriage equality, but instead should have put “jobs” (their shorthand for tax breaks for millionaires) at the top of the agenda.

Contrast this action in the Garden State’s Democratically-controlled legislature to that of a Republican-controlled legislature across the river in Pennsylvania. What do you think is receiving priority treatment there? It’s a GOP-sponsored voter-suppression bill that has the support of their Tea Party fellow traveler Governor Tom Corbett. Despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence of wholesale voter fraud, the GOP is working to deny the vote to those classes of people who don’t have proper photo ID (and typically vote Democratic). This legislation is being fast-tracked to be in place in time to influence the 2012 presidential election. So I guess, by GOP logic, voter suppression is more important than creating jobs in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania GOP will pass legislation that will inevitably embroil the state in expensive lawsuits while the New Jersey Democrats will continue to work to ensure equal rights.

I often disagree with politicians from both parties, but this example shows the fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. Ensuring rights vs. suppressing rights.

Update: According to Jane Roh, the Pennsylvania House is also taking up a bill to name an official state firearm. Another important job-creating issue.

Blue Jersey Focus – Assemblyman John F. McKeon

Assemblyman John F. McKeon of the 27th District has been in the legislature for the past decade. He spoke to Blue Jersey this afternoon following a meeting of the Judiciary Committee. We talked about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, jobs, the budget battles, taxes, and marriage equality. The conversation ended with a question about animus and an answer about comity.

Senate Bill 1 – Celebrating Marriage Equality (video)

Yesterday’s Senate session was historic – the passage of S1, the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption bill.

Due to some technical glitches, the audio feed from the Senate was not of high quality, so it’s best to listen to this video using headphones. My apologies for the sub-par audio, but you’ll be watching one of the most significant events in the history of the New Jersey legislature.

Even if you don’t view the entire 35 minutes, fast forward to 34:07 to see the vote and especially the jubilant reaction of Garden State Equality’s Steven Goldstein.

Time marks for the  senators’ remarks are:

Senate President Sweeney – 00:00

Senate Majority Leader Weinberg – 06:01

Senator Ray Lesniak – 18:39

Senator Gerald Cardinale – 20:15

Senator Richard Codey – 26:01

Senator Barbara Buono – 29:32

Senator Jennifer Beck – 32:30

Senate Marriage Equality Press Conference

It was an odd mood in the Senate today. Celebratory because even going in to the session, we knew there were enough votes to pass the marriage equality bill. But in the back of everyone’s mind was the inevitable veto by our politically ambitions bully of a governor.

Yet, Garden State Equality’s Steven Goldstein’s optimism prevailed. If there’s a way to ensure civil rights to all couples who love each other, Goldstein’s tenacity along with the support from Senate President Sweeney and the bill’s sponsors will make that happen.

Next up is the Assembly vote on Thursday afternoon. Blue Jersey will be there.

Here’s the press conference where Sweeney spoke along with the sponsors, Senators Weinberg and Lesniak. Another key supporter, Senator Codey, also spoke, along with Steven Goldstein.

Assembly Judiciary Committee Marriage Equality – Post-Hearing Comments

Only Blue Jersey has gavel-to-gavel video coverage of yesterday’s marriage equality hearings at the Assembly Judiciary Committee. I’ll be editing and uploading the more relevant material over the next few days. Some will be frontpaged, some will appear on the sidebar, so be sure to check there, too.

I felt like a witness to history, and someday I’ll be able to tell my grandson that Grampa was there when New Jersey worked to end yet another chapter in institutional discrimination.

Below are post-hearing comments from Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, and Garden State Equality’s Steven Goldstein.

Gusciora is a gentleman. His comments about freshman Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi are generous and conciliatory. I would have been less kind. Schepisi’s first vote in her political career was one to perpetuate discrimination. I’ll post Schepisi’s remarks later, but suffice it to say that although she appeared torn in her decision, she based it partly on the fact that the e-mails she received were 50-3 in favor of marriage discrimination. She touted the all-to-familiar themes of “separate but equal” arrangements for marriage and the old “some of my best friends are gay” line.

Weinberg and Goldstein were in maximum kvell mode after the vote – deservedly so. Unlike the recent Senate hearings, at yesterday’s session everyone who desired to testify was given that opportunity.

Videos are below the fold.

Technical note: One legislator I spoke with had trouble viewing prior videos on his iPad, probably because iPads do not support Flash. I’ve uploaded these videos in QuickTime format. The files are larger and take more time to upload. If anyone has problems with videos, please send direct email to deciminyan@gmail.com

Our Legislators on Marriage Equality

Yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on marriage equality made me proud of several legislators – veterans and freshmen alike. Below the fold are videos of the remarks of Senate President Sweeney, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, and two openly gay Assemblymen – Reed Gusciora and Tim Eustace. As a bonus, Assemblyman Eustance’s son, Kyle, also testified.

Senate Judiciary Committee Vote

Here is today’s vote on marriage equality along with the statements from each of the senators. It’s worth watching – from the eloquence of Senators Gill and Weinberg to the cowardice of Senator Bateman to the political posturing of Senator Kyrillos. Congratulations to Senators Lesniak, Weinberg, and Sweeney, and to Steven Goldstein for this momentous step.

Thoughts on a Day in Trenton

I arrived early at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Marriage Equality in order to get a good spot for my video camera. The hearings were scheduled for 11 AM. By 9:15, when I arrived, the line was all the way back to the lobby and more people were coming. I was the first reporter there, and was able to secure a prime spot adjacent to the witness table, a power outlet, and access to the audio feed. What more could a blogger and amateur videographer ask for?

I’ve been to a lot of committee hearings over the last year, but this was one of the most emotional for me.  Yes, I’ve heard the stories about Danny and John, and about Marsha and Louise before, and they touched me deeply. But today, their stories were juxtaposed with those of marriage bigots who demand special rights for heterosexual couples. (And I’m sad to have to use the term “bigot”, but their arguments hold no more water than those who worked to deny women’s right to vote in the early 20th century or those who worked to deny rights to African Americans in mid-century.) My head reeled with the thoughts of how can these people call themselves religious? Religion involves compassion and understanding, but these people did not understand a word that was spoken.

More, including a video of the press conference, below the fold.

S-1 Goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday

On Tuesday, we will see the first step in the effort to pass Senate Bill 1 (S1), the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act. It promises to be an exciting hearing. Our friends at Garden State Equality will be there, and I’m sure the proponents of marriage discrimination will be also.

America was founded on principles of individual rights, and it’s appropriate that the marriage equality bill is the first piece of legislation to be considered in this session. That’s not to say that jobs, health care, and education are not critical. But individual rights are the bedrock of our society, and should never take a back seat to the other important issues.

Despite the Constitutional guarantees, there are still people who, as Steven Goldstein of GSE puts it, demand “special rights” of heterosexual marriage.  It’s important that we understand and counter their arguments so that we help tip the balance in the legislature toward the side of marriage equality.

(More, including videos, below the fold)