Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, one of the legislature’s leading advocates for marriage equality, released the following statement on Monday regarding the announcement by democratic leaders that marriage equality in New Jersey would be a major priority for the new legislative session starting on Tuesday:
“In recent months, Governor Christie has been to four out of the six states that recognize same-sex marriages: Iowa, New Hampshire, New York and Massachusetts. Moreover, when he visits Washington DC he is in a city that also recognizes such relationships. And in none of these places, has he seen any diminishment of the institution of marriage other than perhaps when he is in the presence of Newt Gingrich.
“The fact remains, marriage in this country is a secular right that is afforded persons who abide by state laws when they take a blood test to get married and then venture to city hall to acquire a marriage license. Government involvement in the institution of marriage dates back to when Governor William Bradford performed the first civil wedding at Plymouth Colony. The point being, when government is involved in the marriage business, it should be done on an equitable basis. New Jersey should not discriminate as long as it governs marriage laws in this state. That’s why bill A-1, which I intend to introduce in the new legislative session, is so important to correct this inequity in the law.
“I also want to commend Speaker Oliver and Senate President Sweeney for making this equitable right such a priority and allowing me to be here. They recognize that when a committed gay couple, who can be duly married in another state, and then comes here to live, becomes “Civil Unionized.” Or that committed gay couples who are already in this state, and that are here to work or raise families of their own, can never cross the threshold of marriage. This is a discriminatory practice that should be corrected by A-1.
“We also must recognize that society is changing for the better, making A-1 timely. Opinion polls show that the majority of Americans, and the majority of New Jerseyans, favor marriage equality for same sex couples.
“I teach at the College of New Jersey. I see students in my American Government class who don’t ask why, but say ‘Why, not?’ It is the young persons and next generation of persons who see no problem in recognizing that marriage is an institution that should be afforded all persons who remain committed to a partnership, whether they are gay or straight. In this however, there is a challenge. I do realize we have to work with the people (and legislators) who are of my generation and above, and maybe don’t understand the value of marriage equality for all persons. I remain committed to working on this bill in a positive way – that through this legislative process there be a respectful dialogue and that we allay anyone’s fears that we are somehow devaluing the institution of marriage.
“I also believe that the gay community needs to recognize that if we want this to become law, we need to all work together and even reach across the political aisle. I hope in the coming weeks, we can work in the legislative process and ensure that all legislators ‘do the right thing’ to end the inherent inequities in our marriage laws.
“I also do not count the Governor out. He has already stated that gay couples should be afforded the same dignity and equal respect under the laws. He just needs to ask, as my students do, ‘why, not’ and live up to the promise that we are all endowed with certain unalienable rights, Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“And while the sky hasn’t fallen in Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, and Washington DC, I am here to declare that New Jersey and ME – with ME standing for Marriage Equality – is Perfect Together,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer).