Debra Summers (L) and Lynne Womble pose for a picture after being married at City Hall in the early morning hours of October 21, 2013 in Newark. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
New Jersey is one step closer to codifying same-sex marriage, nearly a decade after a judge made it legal in the state.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee Thursday unaninmously advanced a bill, A5367, that would write same-sex marriage protections into New Jersey law. The move comes as some LGBTQ leaders fear a U.S. Supreme Court that has shifted right could roll back rights for same-sex couples.
The bill passed unanimously, with Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), chair of the Judiciary committee, stressing the importance of preserving same-sex marriage, which was legalized in the Garden State in 2013 after a judicial order. The Supreme Court legalized it nationwide in 2015.
“The fact is that the statutes of our state have never caught up to the court decisions … which no longer treat same-sex couples as second-class citizens. So it’s important we take this step,” he said.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), prime sponsor of the bill, commended the committee for moving the bill forward in a statement. Assemblyman Robert Auth (R-Bergen) was absent from the meeting for the vote.
The Legislature last passed a same-sex marriage bill — also sponsored by Vainieri Huttle — in 2012. Then-Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill, saying couples in civil unions enjoyed the same protections as married couples.
Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), a sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, told Politico he wants to codify same-sex marriage before leaving office in January. The Senate version (S3416) has yet to go up for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sweeney in 2009 helped kill a same-sex marriage bill by joining a group of Democrats who did not vote in favor of it, a decision he said later he regretted.
Only one person testified in opposition to the bill Thursday, the Rev. Gregory Quinlan, a minister in Mount Olive who claims to have “left the homosexual life in 1992.” He told the committee there is no evidence or science to suggest people are born gay.
Quinlan also said the bill would “codify a religion” and he urged the committee to vote against it.
“I think that’s not what this bill is doing, and I think your comments are three fries short of a Happy Meal,” Mukherji told him.
Quinlan asked why Mukherji was being “so hateful,” to which the assemblyman responded, “I find your comments to be abhorrent and hateful.”
This is not the only bill Democrats are considering as a response to the rightward lurch of the U.S. Supreme Court. A measure that would codify abortion rights into New Jersey law is also under consideration.
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