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(TRENTON) – Assembly members Mila M. Jasey and John F. McKeon (both D-Essex/Morris) issued the following statement Thursday as the Assembly Judiciary Committee considers the marriage equality legislation (A-1) they are sponsoring:

“Giving same-sex couples the same choice heterosexual couples currently enjoy is a civil rights issue, whether the Governor likes it or not,” said Jasey. “All couples should have the peace of mind that if ever faced with a tragedy, they would not be turned away at a hospital or denied medical decision rights because their Governor didn’t think they were worthy of being married.”

“There is no denying that marriage equality is a civil rights issue,” said McKeon. “To allow heterosexual couples to marry and enjoy the legal benefits, privileges and rights that come with marriage, but deny the same opportunity and rights to same-sex couples simply because of their sexual orientation is cruel and unjust. This inequity must be amended now.”

The bill (A-1) would allow same-sex marriages in New Jersey. The bill defines “marriage” as the legally recognized union of two consenting persons in a committed relationship.

The bill has garnered nationwide attention and controversy after Gov. Christie made a comment suggesting that those who fought and died during the civil rights movement in the 60s would have preferred to put the issue of civil rights before a referendum, and more recently calling an assemblyman a “numb nuts” for contending segregationists would have found an ally in the governor.

“The Governor has had no qualms about pushing through tough policies in the past,” said Jasey. “His failure to take a stand on legislation that would provide same-sex couples equal marriage rights is disgraceful, and his attempt to deflect responsibility by proposing the issue be put up for a vote is disingenuous at best.”

“As we learned this week, civil rights should never be left up to a referendum. We as elected officials have a responsibility to ensure the rights of all citizens under the constitution are upheld,” said McKeon. “So to paraphrase a line from our President, Gov. Christie, do what’s right and sign this bill.”