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)
Same-sex marriage is one step closer to being codified into New Jersey law.
A bill approved by both chambers of the Legislature Monday, S3416, would enshrine gay couples’ right to marry into law. Same-sex marriages were legalized by a New Jersey court decision in 2013, and the U.S. Supreme Court did the same for the nation two years later.
It’s been more than a decade since lawmakers first attempted to legalize same-sex marriage. One attempt failed in 2010 when the votes didn’t materialize, and a 2012 push by the Legislature was vetoed by then-Gov. Chris Christie.
Though same-sex marriage is legalized nationwide, the Legislature moved to pass the bill swiftly in light of fears a conservative U.S. Supreme Court could revisit its 2015 decision. Lawmakers are also seeking to codify abortion rights into state law for the same reason.
“We fought to correct the injustices that denied these rights for far too many loving couples for far too long,” state Sen. Loretta Weinberg said Monday. “We don’t want to see those rights lost to an arch-conservative agenda of recent Supreme Court appointees.”
Ahead of the vote, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle voiced their regret for previously voting against the bill or placing hurdles in the way of it advancing.
Outgoing Senate President Steve Sweeney abstained voting for the bill in 2009. On Monday he said he wrongly approached that effort as political, rather than a matter of civil rights. A year later, he called it the “biggest mistake” of his career.
“As soon as I abstained, we all get this feeling — what the hell did I just do? What kind of mistake did I make? But today I get to fix it, and I’m proud to be here today,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester).
Sen. Holly Schepisi recalled going home after she voted against a previous same-sex marriage bill and being scolded by her daughter, who was then 8 years old.
“I get to correct my mistake today,” said Schepisi (R-Bergen), who thanked Weinberg for sponsoring the latest version of the bill.
Sweeney said passage of the bill would “send a clear message to this nation.”
The bill passed 35-4, with Republican Sens. Mike Doherty, Steve Oroho, Robert Singer, and Christopher Connors voting no.
In the Assembly, nearly 10 hours into a marathon voting session, the bill passed 53-10 with four abstentions.
This will “certainly safeguard marriage equality in New Jersey,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vaineri Huttle, who introduced the first bill legalizing same-sex marriage in 2009 and was primary sponsor of the current legislation.
The measure heads to Gov. Phil Murphy, a vocal supporter of LGBTQ rights who is expected to sign it.
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