The New Jersey Assembly on Thursday
approved a bill that would make New Jersey the eighth state to
legalize gay marriage.
Members voted 42 to 33 on the measure
after a roughly 3-hour debate.
The debate was opened by the bill's
sponsor, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, who rejected Governor Chris
Christie's call to put the issue up for a popular vote, saying “it's
just the wrong thing to do.”
“This is all about whether you will
allow two people to love one another in the privacy of their own
home,” Gusciora, who is openly gay, told colleagues.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver also
urged colleagues to vote in favor of the bill.
“This is clearly a constitutional
issue of equal access under the law,” she said.
A motion to send the bill back to
committee failed but received a loud round of applause from opponents
sitting in the gallery.
The vote comes just days after the
Senate approved the measure by a wider margin than expected.
Supporters cheered as the final tally
was displayed on the chamber's large LED screen.
But the cheering from supporters is
expected to end soon, because neither chamber has sufficient support
to override Christie's promised “swift” veto.
During a Tuesday news conference,
Christie called the Legislature's actions an “act of theater on
their part because they know it's not going to happen.”
However, Christie is not expected to
have the last word. Democratic leaders have nearly two years to
override the governor's veto. Based on this week's votes, supporters
remain 3 votes shy of that goal in the Senate and 12 votes in the
New Jersey currently recognizes gay and
lesbian couples with civil unions, which Christie has said he
Lawmakers enacted civil unions in 2006
after the state's Supreme Court unanimously agreed that it is
unconstitutional to deny gay and lesbian couples the rights granted
to married heterosexual couples and ordered the Legislature to remedy
Marriage supporters, who say civil
unions are flawed and that separate is never equal, have returned to
court to argue their case.
@GovChristie thinks marriage veto will put the issue to rest, he
hasn't met our clients,” legal group Lambda Legal tweeted on
Thursday. “We aren't going away.”