New Jersey's Senate passed a bill Feb. 13 approving the legalization of gay marriage by a vote of 24-16, and is due to go before the Assembly on Thursday. Republican Gov. Chris Christie has threatened to veto the legislation.
With seven states and the District of Columbia now allowing gay marriage, New Jersey could be the eighth state to do so. However, Christie, who openly opposes same-sex marriage, wants to put the issue to voters in November in the form of a referendum. And while, according to WPIX News, 54 percent of Jersey voters questioned in a recent poll support gay marriage, voters have rejected it in the 31 states where the issue has already come up for referendum.
Activists and advocates note that gay marriage is a civil rights issue, and therefore should not be subject to popular vote. Supporters also remark that, similarly, Americans would not have voted to give African-Americans their rights in the 50's and 60's; those rights ought to have been given from the start.
"We should not be in the business of legally sanctioning homophobia," said Sen. Loretta Weinberg, one of the bill's sponsors.
Because Christie intends to veto the bill, bitter opponents of gay marriage claim the vote it got was meaningless.
Christie brushed the vital issue aside at a Feb. 14 news conference, and said his promised his veto would not be overridden.
He also accused Democrats of "engaging in political theater," because they were supposedly moving a gay marriage bill through the Legislature knowing full well he wouldn't sign it. He said he hoped lawmakers would soon "be able to move on" from the issue.
However, gay rights advocates see two options on the table to combat the injustice: First, they intend to continue fighting over the next two years to override Christie's veto. To do that, they would need the approval of two thirds of both houses in the New Jersey legislature.
Second, advocates are looking to the courts and urging them to fully support same-sex marriage.
"The word marriage is society's universal civil and legal acknowledgment of a loving relationship," Weinberg added. "It's time for New Jersey to get on the right side of history and enact true marriage equality for every one of our residents."
Though she admitted that, as the fight for gay rights in New Jersey continues, the process of legalizing same-sex marriage there might be lengthy, she was confident that "with enough votes, in the future we can override the governor's veto."
Also on Feb. 13, gay marriage was officially made legal in Washington after Gov. Christine Gregoire signed it into law. While the law won't take effect until June, LGBT rights activists praised Gregoire's actions.
"I'm proud our same-sex couples will no longer be treated as separate, but equal," she told the crowd. She concluded by remarking that the day was one "that historians would mark as a milestone for equal rights."
Over in New Jersey, meanwhile, many activists feel the prospects to cancel out Christie's veto don't look all that bad.
The closest vote on the issue so far "brought the notion of an override out of fantasyland," said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, a gay rights group. "Before today, I would have said the chances of an override were one in a million. Now I'd say it's about one in two."
Photo: "Two female Montclair, N.J. residents kiss in front of a backdrop of New York's City Hall before their marriage ceremony in New York. Despite favorable votes, Jersey's gay marriage bill is expected to be vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie. Craig Ruttle/AP Photos