New Jersey has taken the next big step forward towards passing legislation that legalizes gay marriage. On Monday (appropriately, the day before Valentine’s), the state Senate passed a bill creating an environment of equality for same-sex couples throughout the state. New Jersey is moving forward to join the ranks of the six U.S. States (and Washington, D.C.) that already allow same-sex marriage.
It’s a topic that has been much in the news, but even more so in the past week. On Monday , the Governor of the state of Washington signed a same-sex marriage bill into effect. California made big waves last week by overturning the much-debated Proposition 8, which eliminated same-sex marriage in that state. New Jersey seems to be primed to follow suit, though only time will tell whether it will follow California’s arduous decade-long journey to the same conclusion.
New Jersey currently has a “civil union” law in place, which allows same-sex couples the legal protections that are afforded married heterosexual couples. Many gay rights advocates argue that the “civil union” title is just another way to eliminate equality for same-sex couples, stating that the issue is a basic question of civil rights; the distinction between “marriage” and a “civil union” is still too broad to be constitutional. Proponents of the law argue that marriage is, ultimately, a religious institution and is therefore out of the question for same-sex couples.
The path for this bill is far from smooth (as happens so often when I read stories like this, I am reminded of Schoolhouse Rock’s immortal anthem “I’m Just a Bill”). As always with this particularly politically volatile topic, it has its fervent supporters as well as its staunch opponents—and among the latter category is state governor Chris Christie, who has already announced that he will veto the bill when it comes to him. Chris Christie supports the “civil union” designation and is not in favor of changing the “union” to “marriage”, but is willing to put it to a public vote.
Regardless of what side of the argument you’re on, this is clearly the sign of a shifting political tide within the state of New Jersey. If you’ll recall, this same bill was rejected in 2010 by a vote of 20-14, whereas this year it was voted in 24-16. The bill will next be passed on to the Assembly, who are expected to follow the Senate’s suit by approving it. If Chris Christie follows through with his veto the progress will take an undeniable hit, but gay rights supporters should be heartened by the show of support from the Senate. Whichever way you look at it (and to sort of quote Bob Dylan), the times they are a-undeniably changin’.