With a narrow 7 to 6 vote and after more
than 7 hours of testimony, a gay marriage bill cleared a key New
Jersey Senate committee and was sent to the Senate floor for a full
Hundreds showed up Monday to testify
for or against Senator Loretta Weinberg's marriage equality bill.
In her opening remarks, Weinberg teared
up as she told the committee that her relationship with her late
husband Irwin Weinberg inspired her to sponsor the bill.
“Losing him was the hardest adversity
I've ever faced,” she said. “But what we're voting on today is
the right of every citizen to have what Irwin and I had: the right to
live with the person you love in full peace and security.”
Proponents of the bill testified on the
failings of the civil unions law approved in 2006, putting opponents
on the defensive, who urged lawmakers to fix the civil unions law
instead of moving forward with gay marriage.
Damon Owens, a representative for the
National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's most
vociferous opponent of gay marriage, testified that granting gay
couples the right to marry was a decision that should not be made
based on “emotions, personal views or even religion.” Owens
argued that sexual union, not procreation, was the definition of
“Equating same-sex unions to marriage
means accepting … that sodomy is equal to sexual union. Sodomy is
not sexual union. … It's self evident that the union of two
complimentary reproductive systems is not the same as the joining of
a reproductive system to another's digestive system,” he said.
When asked if he supported New Jersey's
civil union law, Owens answered he would, if it allowed any two
people to enter into the union. “The moral problem we have with
civil unions legislation is that it is in fact attempting to setup a
parallel structure for marriage,” he said.
Despite a list of over 100 people
waiting to testify, public debate ended shortly after 9PM.
In voting against the bill, Senator
Gerald Cardinale, a Republican from Bergen, said the bill would have
“unintended consequences,” including encouraging more people to
choose to be gay.
Senator Nia Gill, a Democrat from
Passaic, said: “I vote for equality in marriage because I believe
in the constitution.”
The bill is expected
to reach the Senate floor as early as Thursday.