Tag Archive: gay marriage

Echoes of an Earlier Era in the Fight for Marriage Equality in New Jersey

The issue of marriage equality is an important one, and one that is still primarily debated and regulated on the state level. Unless the day arrives when the U.S. Supreme Court declares, all out, that gays have equal marriage rights to straights, the battleground for equality and dignity will remain in the statehouses of the nation.

First, I do not intend to mislead my readers. My position on gay marriage is clear. I believe that if two adult human beings want to abide together, pledge mutual lifelong love and loyalty and create a family, then the state ought to support them in doing so. It’s a tough, mean world out there, and no one ought to go it alone. People need to join together, and the family is the first and foremost institution for such a practice. We are social beings and need family. I do not mean this as a slight to single people, but on the whole, two are better than one, whether it is in the quest to make a living, buy a house, or find a pair of lost keys in the house.

New Jersey has a long and, frankly, appalling history in the fight for equality and justice. While New Jerseyans tend to think of themselves as Northerners, as Progressives, the political history of the state is a rather conservative – almost a Southern – one. New Jersey had a slave population well up to the Civil War. New Jersey never voted for Lincoln. New Jersey wasn’t happy with the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which established “equal protection of the laws” as national policy. New Jersey did not allow women to vote in most elections before the U.S. Constitution was changed in 1920. New Jersey had a prominent Ku Klux Klan movement in the 20’s, and a menacing Nazi Party in the 1930’s. Does all of this surprise you? It should.

Well, the Garden State continues to carry on its regressive tradition of embracing the wrong side of history. Though the year is not two months old, conservative legislators in Trenton have already proposed a state Constitutional amendment (ACR 11) barring legal gay marriage. It’s embarrassing, it’s shameful, but it is not unprecedented.

We last saw a similar debate, filled with prejudice and detestable declarations, in 1913. This was a tough year for New Jersey. Scenarios that any present-day resident would find eerily familiar plagued the state. Our cities were spiraling out of control due to growing poverty and crime. Urban schools were breaking down under the pressure of increased enrollment and deteriorating conditions. Teachers, particularly in Newark, were restive and would eventually strike for higher wages and job security. Corruption ruled the day in Trenton and the municipalities, defying Woodrow Wilson, the state’s progressive governor. Wilson would soon move on to a higher office, of course, but the graft would remain.

It was in this recognizable economic and political climate that the Legislature took up the debate on marriage equality. But this earlier struggle was not over homosexuality, it concerned race. In February of 1913 the New Jersey State legislature took up a bill that would ban interracial marriage.

To be fair, this was not just a state issue. Between 1910 and 1914 several states, including Iowa and Wyoming, considered such legislation. Congress openly debated amending the U.S. Constitution to ban interracial matrimony, as well as making such contracts a felony in Washington, D.C. In statehouses and even on the floor of Congress itself, politicians railed against the idea of whites and blacks joining together in matrimony. One prominent Georgia Congressman, Seaborn Roddenberry, even compared interracial marriage to a form of white slavery:

“Intermarriage between whites and blacks is repulsive and averse to every sentiment of pure American spirit. It is abhorrent and repugnant to the very principles of Saxon government. It is subversive of social peace. It is destructive of moral supremacy, and ultimately this slavery of white women to black beasts will bring this nation a conflict as fatal as ever reddened the soil of Virginia or crimsoned the mountain paths of Pennsylvania…Let us uproot and exterminate now this debasing, ultra-demoralizing, un-American and inhuman leprosy…”

Back in New Jersey, the proposed bill caused an uproar amongst the state’s religious and black leaders. One by one, key leaders spoke up, along with their congregations, on the issue. Heading the effort to defeat the bill was Presbyterian Rev. E.F. Eggleston. Speaking at one Newark protest meeting in February of 1913, he stated:

“It’s a snake bill. All the good people of this state are with us. If this proposed bill were against the Chinese, I would be opposed to it.”

Echoing him was Reverend Frederick H. Butler of Montclair, one of Essex County’s most prominent African-American leaders:

“There are bad classes among the white people, just as much as among us. The Negro woman does her part. She is our mother, and she must be protected. If we could live better, we would not have this special class legislation thrust at us.”

Unlike in the South, African-Americans had some voting power in New Jersey, though they too experienced discrimination daily and at the polls. But New Jersey’s small black minority (larger numbers would not settle in the state until the Great Migration of the 1920’s), joined with its religious allies, and eventually succeeded and defeated efforts in the Legislature to bar interracial marriage.

Other states would continue to ban, and even punish, interracial marriage until the U.S. Supreme Court labeled the practice unconstitutional in the 1967 case Loving v. Virginia.

New Jersey’s residents need to recognize the authentic parallels between the two discriminatory movements. We need to learn from our history and reject hatred. Decent people must, in the words of songwriter Sarah Bareilles, speak up and BE BRAVE. We must honor those who seek to create households of love, honor, responsibility and family.

Stand up for family values. Stand up for honorable people. Defeat ACR 11 this year!

Breaking: Judge Jacobson rules in favor of gay marriage

A New Jersey judge has ruled that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry.

In a summary judgment issued Friday, Judge Mary Jacobson says now that the federal government recognizes gay marriages, not doing so in New Jersey would violate the state constitution.

It’s not immediately clear when marriages could begin or whether the state government will appeal to a higher-level state court.


Here’s the opinion:


Troy Stevenson, Garden State Equality on NJ Today

Garden State Equality’s new Executive Director Troy Stevenson made an appearance on NJTV’s NJ Today program, covering questions on marriage equality, ‘gay conversion’ therapy and bullying:

Watch Garden State Equality Optimistic About Marriage Equality on PBS. See more from NJToday.

I should probably let you know I’m a member of the Garden State Equality Board, and I should probably also tell you I’d be posting this even if I wasn’t.

ICYMI: Audio from Supreme Court Prop8 oral arguments. DOMA recording posts 2pm.


Today is the second day of legal history in the making at the U.S. Supreme Court, which for the first time ever this week is hearing oral arguments on whether marriage rights for gay couples are protected under the U.S. Constitution. Today, the Court considers the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

The Court has granted extended time for DOMA arguments; total of 110 minutes in arguments before the court, 50 minutes devoted to jurisdictional issues, 60 minutes to the merits. I should be able to post a link to today’s recording at 2pm, or shortly after. I hadn’t realized the Court would be releasing same-day audio recordings. They usually don’t; this is the first time in a year the Court’s posted same-day recordings; the last time was oral arguments for Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality.

Yesterday the Court heard argument in California’s Prop8 case, for which Garden State Equality submitted an amicus curiae brief. Here is full audio & transcript of Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop8) oral argument.

Senator Bob Menendez has put his name behind a petition to overturn DOMA, a reflection of his own movement on this issue. Seventeen years ago, he voted for DOMA, and President Clinton signed it into law. Both now fully support marriage equality. And DOMA, still the law of the land is no longer defended by President Obama and his administration. Both our Senators and every Democrat in the NJ Congressional Delegation has signed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down DOMA.

Trenton’s own Associate Justice Antonin Scalia is the focus of some outrage after wondering aloud during the Prop8 arguments yesterday whether having same-sex parents may be “harmful” to children (for the record, it is not). Several petitions petitions like this one demand Scalia recuse himself. Not going to happen.

Scalia, who is already on record equating sodomy with murder in a talk in Princeton last year is the Court’s most obvious vote against equality.  

Mr. Personality: The Conservative Case Against Chris Christie

Lately, conservatives in the United States of both political parties have sought out a standard-bearer to defend individual liberty, curtail the refusal of the left to tackle the debt crisis in America, to bring back intellectualism to counter moronic rightist climate change denial, and to express, rightfully, that gay marriage is inherently, to use the words of President Warren Harding, a “return to normalcy” . . . Now, regardless of Christie’s murky record as governor of New Jersey, the fact remains that Christie is, frankly, an atrocious choice for both the state of New Jersey and the United States in any political capacity, including his current office, let alone the Presidency.  

QoTD Goes to Cory Booker: Equality and Inclusion

Cory Booker, co-chair of the Democratic National Platform Committee, on the inclusion of marriage equality this weekend to the party’s platform for the first time in its history:

We must stand as Democrats. We must stand for the middle class. We must stand for equality and inclusion and whether you are a single mother here in Detroit, whether you or a gay man in San Francisco, whether you are a blue collar worker in Newark, New Jersey, this is the party for you.

It should be also be noted the platform committee did not endorse the DREAM Act for the platform, so there might be some young folks here who don’t feel quite as included.

Rachel Maddow Slams Chris Christie

ICYMI for late-nighters, Rachel Maddow Thursday night, just hours after the New Jersey Legislature passed marriage equality bills in  the second of its two houses, to which Gov. Christie issued a conditional veto tonight. Maddow was a little later than some in condemning Christie’s ignorant reference to the civil rights movement of the early 1960’s, but she nails it. Maddow:

15-second unscrubbable ad. But Maddow’s always worth the wait.

People of Faith for Full Equality

In the run-up to yesterday’s breakthrough Senate marriage vote, both Senate Judiciary, then Assembly Judiciary heard a great deal of mostly repetitive and inaccurate testimony against the bill from people claiming religious objections. This, despite the bill’s clearly stated provision exempting religious institutions and their facilities from holding gay marriages (read out loud by Assembly sponsor Reed Gusciora). Reality is there’s considerable support from the faithful of many traditions. As the full Assembly prepares to consider the bill Thursday 1pm (full Senate passed it yesterday), here one Catholic writes eloquently why he supports it, and here’s another from a Jewish P-O-V by Stephen Yellin I also recommend.  – promoted by Rosi

We’ve heard a lot in New Jersey about “Equality” lately. Diverse opinions, harsh criticisms, love and hate have characterized this debate. I wish we heard more from the laity of the churches, and communities of faith around the state-I wish they were the ones who were politically vocal.

New Jersey has a waterloo moment coming up this week as our Legislature votes again on Marriage equality for the LGBT community in our state. I’ve heard politicians come out and say that they feel they cannot do it for “religious”, “spiritual” or “God-spoken” reasons. People of Faith for equality need to use our voice.

Poll: New Jersey voters favor gay marriage

It’s too bad our Democratic legislators were such cowards in 2009 because once again a poll shows New Jersey voters favor marriage equality:

Voters in the state narrowly think gay marriage should be legal, by a 47/42 margin. That includes a 46/35 spread with independent voters. When you broaden the issue to civil unions 81% of voters support some form of legal recognition for gay couples to only 17% opposed. 41% say full same sex marriage rights would be their preference with another 40% supporting civil unions. Even among Republicans in the state 77% support either gay marriage or civil unions.

Most don’t vote on this issue anyway, so our legislators may be reassured that “Democrats lead on the generic legislative ballot 52-39.”

Big Dog Comes Out for Marriage Equality

You know, there’s been a dearth of news in New Jersey over marriage equality for a while, so I decided to cross the river and gives us a bit of good news.

Bill Clinton, the President who signed both Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (which was an improvement, if slight) and the Defense of Marriage Act (a horror show that is still the law of the land) has thrown his considerable support behind marriage equality.

Here’s part of his statement, issued with the Human Rights Campaign:

Our nation’s permanent mission is to form a ‘more perfect union’ – deepening the meaning of freedom, broadening the reach of opportunity, strengthening the bonds of community. That mission has inspired and empowered us to extend rights to people previously denied them. Every time we have done that, it has strengthened our nation. Now we should do it again, in New York, with marriage equality. For more than a century, our Statue of Liberty has welcomed all kinds of people from all over the world yearning to be free. In the 21st century, I believe New York’s welcome must include marriage equality.

Here’s hoping this will give some of our folks in the legislature some growth hormones for their gonads so they can move this one forward.  It just makes sense, folks!