Members Cite ‘Disappointment’ in Christie’s Inability to Affirm Civil Rights
(TRENTON) — Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex), Assembly Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) and Assembly members Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), Mila M. Jasey (D-Essex), John F. McKeon (D-Essex), Connie Wagner (D-Bergen) and Timothy J. Eustace (D-Bergen) issued a multimedia package Friday in response to Gov. Christie’s conditional veto of their landmark marriage equality legislation.
The measure (S-1/A-1) passed the Senate Monday 24-16 and received final legislative approval in the General Assembly Thursday 42-33.
The “Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act” would have eliminated the civil unions that have been in place in New Jersey since 2007 but have failed to provide equal treatment to the state’s same-sex couples and instead would have defined marriage as the legally recognized union of two consenting people in a committed relationship.
It also expressly stipulated that no clergy of any religion authorized to solemnize marriage, nor any religious society, institution or organization in the state would have been required to conduct any marriage in violation of their free exercise of religion.
The Legislature may override a governor’s conditional veto of a piece of legislation with the support of two-thirds of the members of each house: 27 in the Senate and 54 in the General Assembly. A veto override may be attempted at any point during the legislative session in which the bill was vetoed. Legislative sessions in New Jersey last two years; the current legislative session ends at 11:59 a.m. on Jan. 14, 2014. A veto override attempt must begin in the bill’s house of origin, in this case the Senate.
The multimedia package consists of a video of the Assembly sponsors of marriage equality voicing their disappointment with the governor’s decision to veto civil rights reform and audio and a transcript of same.
The audio file is available upon request.
A transcript of comments from the members is appended below:
Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Bergen):
“I’m very disappointed in the governor’s decision to veto marriage equality.”
Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex):
“I’m very disappointed that he has chosen to adopt that position.”
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer):
“I’m disappointed that the governor didn’t fulfill the will of the Legislature.”
Assemblyman Timothy J. Eustace, D.C. (D-Bergen):
“It’s disappointing that the governor has not represented all the people of the State of New Jersey.”
Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey (D-Essex):
“I’m disappointed that the governor has chosen to again disregard so many of our citizens.”
Assemblyman John F. McKeon (D-Essex):
“I’m sorely disappointed with the governor.”
Assembly Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex):
“It’s a grave disappointment.”
“We understand the difficulty when issues of theology creep into the law-making process. And that is what has made the issue of marriage equality a difficult one to solve.
“But for us in the Legislature, we are bound to promulgate civil laws that provide all citizens in our state with equal protection under the law.”
“The fact that there is a distinction in terms between ‘marriage’ and ‘civil union’ to me says that there is a distinct difference. Therefore I see this as a civil rights issue.”
“It’s easy to hide behind that you’ll rather have a ballot initiative as subject to the whims of the people. The fact remains is that civil rights issues should never be a subject of a ballot initiative.”
“It’s really unfathomable why a governor, who also is a lawyer, would ignore Supreme Court precedent, would instead choose to put a fundamental civil right on a ballot question, and subject it to the vagaries of an election campaign when leadership — when statesmanship — is what’s required to deliver civil rights.”
“I do not think that this should be put up for a referendum.
“In fact the last time a referendum was brought up for a civil rights issue here in the State of New Jersey was to give women the right to vote. And guess what, it was defeated.”
“It shows, in my view, a lack of enlightenment, a lack of empathy. Just a lack of, frankly, what the majority of the people in the state and this country understand is long time and long overdue.”
“For me, it’ll be hard to go home and explain to our sons that we don’t have the same rights that everyone else in this state does.”
“The battle for civil rights has never been easy and it’s often been a long road. But that long road has been populated by men and women of good will, who stick to their guns and continue to advocate for the issues in which they believe.
“And this issue is no different.
“And everyone who wanted to see marriage equality become law should be comforted in the fact that men and women of good will who have supported this measure through the Legislature so far will continue to do so.”
“We have an opportunity to seek an override of the governor’s veto.
“The Legislature will have until January 2014 to get an override vote and that is precisely what both Houses will pursue.
“Over the course of the next year and a half, we will continue to try to encourage members of the other side of the aisle to put forth votes to provide an override to this governor’s veto.”