*** THURSDAY *** ASSEMBLY PANEL TO CONSIDER MARRIAGE EQUALITY LEGISLATION

Bill Would Bring Equal Treatment to All Couples

(TRENTON) – The Assembly Judiciary Committee will meet Thursday to consider legislation to bring marriage equality to New Jersey.
The Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act (A-1) would eliminate the civil unions that have been in place since 2007 but have not provided equal treatment to New Jersey’s same-sex couples.
It would also provide that no clergy of any religion authorized to solemnize marriage nor religious society, institution or organization in the state would be required to conduct any marriage in violation of their free exercise of religion.
The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 2 in Committee Room 4 of the State House Annex.
Audio of the hearing will be streamed live at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/media/live_audio.asp.
“The creation of civil unions has produced a separate-but-equal system, and as we know from our history classes, separate-but-equal is as unconstitutional as it is inherently unequal,” said bill sponsor Assembly Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “This law would make a significant difference in providing equality to same-sex New Jersey couples and their children.”
“All evidence shows us that New Jersey’s civil union law falls far short in providing true equality,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic), who is also sponsoring the bill. “Civil unions send a message that same-sex couples and their families are not equal to married couples in the eyes of the law. This is the same message we heard from Jim Crow segregation laws. Separate treatment was wrong then. Separate treatment is wrong now.”
Gusciora and Oliver noted six states and the District of Columbia, together comprising 35 million Americans, allow same-sex couples to marry.