New Jersey was one of the first states to create a process for same-sex couples to enter into domestic partnerships. In 2003, the state legislature implemented domestic partnerships, which provided limited rights and privileges to same-sex couples over the age of 62. Although the New Jersey Supreme Court struck down these domestic partnership agreements, a majority of judges authorized the state legislature to approve civil unions. The Civil Union Act, which was implemented in February 2007, offered same-sex couples many of the rights and responsibilities enjoyed by heterosexual couples.
In 2010, the New Jersey Senate decisively rejected a bill that would legalize gay marriage. Two years later, a similar bill was passed by both houses before being vetoed by Governor Chris Christie. A strong opponent of gay marriage, Christie has suggested that he would attempt to create a constitutional amendment that would make gay marriage illegal in New Jersey.
Increased Nationwide Support for Gay Marriage
Same-sex marriage is now legal in nine states and Washington, D.C. After voters in Maryland and Washington voted in favor of gay marriage, gay rights advocates are optimistic about the future of gay marriage. They believe that the public opinion is changing rapidly now that more people know openly gay couples and the issue of gay marriage has been prevalent in the national discourse for the past couple of years.
Advocates of gay marriage are optimistic that the gay marriage movement is gaining public support in New Jersey and will likely target the state in their efforts to legalize gay marriage throughout the country. Currently, advocates are targeting states that are less likely to have referendums put before voters. Advocates for gay marriage are not willing to put the issue up for a vote. They are hoping to gain support through their elected officials, who have demonstrated a growing willingness to pass laws supporting gay marriage. They fear that voters would overturn their efforts to legalize same-sex marriage.
The National Organization for Marriage opposes same-sex marriage. Their goal is to fight against the legalization of same-sex marriage. Through aggressive fundraising, the organization pushes for ballot measures that would ban gay marriage. Although Maryland and Washington voters recently legalized gay marriage, opponents of same-sex marriage believe that these cases are not representative of the beliefs of most Americans. Because the state legislators have demonstrated increased support for gay marriage, they believe that their best chance at blocking gay marriage is to put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide.
The Future of Gay Marriage in New Jersey
New Jersey’s legislature has a democratic majority, which approved a bill to legalize gay marriage in February 2012. Although Christie vetoed the bill, state legislators have criticized his stance. Many legislators believe that the majority should not be able to vote to limit the rights of a minority group. Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg believes that civil rights should never be put to voters to decide.
Since becoming the mayor of Newark, New Jersey in 2006, Cory Booker has publicly supported gay rights. Gay rights advocates have attempted to persuade Booker to challenge Christie by running for governor in 2013. They believe that Booker has the best chance of getting Christie out of office. Christie has filed papers to run for a second term as governor. Although Booker has not publicly stated his intent to run, he has left the option open. Advocates are optimistic that Booker will continue as an advocate for gay rights as governor and pave the way to legalize gay marriage in New Jersey without pushing the issue for voters to decide.