Two months after same-sex couples began
marrying in New Jersey, a Senate panel is preparing to consider a
bill legalizing gay marriage in the state.
“Marriage equality is not the law of
the land in New Jersey. Civil union is still the law,” Democratic
Senator Raymond Lesniak told The
Lesniak introduced the bill last week
with Senator Loretta Weinberg, also a Democrat. The Senate Judiciary
Committee is scheduled to consider the bill on Monday.
New Jersey became the 14th
state to allow gay couples to marry following a September 27 Superior
Court decision ordering the state to begin issuing marriage licenses
to gay couples as of October 21.
Republican Governor Chris Christie
appealed the ruling to the New Jersey Supreme Court but withdrew from
the fight after the court sided with the lower court order in
refusing to delay implementation of its order.
Lesniak said a law was needed to
protect the ruling from future litigation.
Weinberg said that the bill also ties
up loose ends, such as recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages,
eliminating civil unions, and providing for a transition from civil
union to marriage.
Last year, Christie vetoed a marriage
equality law approved by lawmakers, arguing that voters should decide
Gay rights advocates expressed concerns
over the proposed legislation.
Hayley Gorenberg, an attorney for
Lambda Legal who worked on the marriage case, called the possibility
of a court reversal “a creature of the imagination.”
Troy Stevenson, executive director of
Garden State Equality, New Jersey's largest LGBT rights advocate,
expressed concern about an exemption in the bill which would allow
religious groups that restrict their event space to members to turn
away gay couples who wish to marry there.
“I don't think our organization can
get behind something that has a religious exception,” Stevenson
However, the proposed bill has narrower
religious exemptions than those found in the bill approved last year.