The New Jersey Legislature will take up
a gay marriage bill one week after New York rejected a similar
measure. The decision to act on the bill comes after gay activists
pressured lawmakers to act.
New Jersey state Senator Ray Lesniak
announced the decision on Thursday.
“On Monday in the Judiciary
Committee, we're going to vote on marriage equality,” he told a
crowd of over 650 gay marriage supporters who had gathered at the
Events in nearby New York appear to
have influenced the decision to put the measure on a fast track.
After defeat of gay marriage in the Senate, gay activists vowed to
oust Senate Democrats whom they accused of “betrayal.”
Both chambers of the Legislature must
approve the bill. But it's in the Senate where the bill fill faces
its most difficult obstacle. With 21 votes needed for passage,
uniting the chamber's 23 Democrats would ensure approval.
The first hurdle comes on Monday as the
Democratic-led Judiciary Committee begins hearings on the measure.
Lawmakers will listen to about six hours of testimony before voting
on the measure, which is expected to win approval.
The National Organization for Marriage
(NOM), the nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage, called
on opponents to contact committee members and attend the hearing.
“Urge them to vote NO on the same-sex
marriage bill,” Brian Brown, executive director of NOM, said in an
urgent appeal. “A lame-duck session is no time to push through a
same-sex marriage bill that has been too controversial for the
legislature to touch for the past four years.”
A final vote on the measure in the
Senate might come as early as Thursday.
Democrats are rushing the proceedings
before Governor-elect Chris Christie, a gay marriage opponent, takes
office on January 19. Governor Jon Corzine has promised to sign the
bill into law.